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Some ‘Free’ and easy living: Wisconsin couple returns each year to serve as campground hosts

MAGGI STIVERS | BEMIDJI PIONEER Margaret and Ken Free are serving as campground hosts for the month of August at Lake Bemidji State Park.

Maggi Stivers

BEMIDJI — For the past three years, Ken and Margaret Free have traveled from their home in Sheboygan Falls, Wis., to Lake Bemidji State Park to serve as campground hosts for the month of August.

Over the summer months, including May and part of September, a campground host, often a retired couple, lives full time at the park.

The role of campground host is to assist campers when needed, be aware of severe weather, clean up campsites and other areas of the state park.

“We are basically here to assist the campers, be available for them but in some ways to be a go-between for the campers and park staff,” Ken said.

The couple was first offered the role of campground host in 2011.

 “We were camping here and my brother-in-law was here and he said They are looking for a campground host for July,’” Ken said.

“We thought about it for awhile and we decided to do it, we decided just to try it,” Margaret said.

They got off to an auspicious start. The couple was enroute to Bemidji when the state park closed because of the government shutdown.

“We weren’t here yet, but we were on our way,” she said.

The couple parked their camper at Ken’s brother home until the park was open.

The Frees were able to serve as campground hosts for 10 days that summer.

“We got our feet wet, and we have been back every year since,” Ken said.

The couple takes advantage of the outdoors while they are in Bemidji.

“We bikeride and yesterday we went out fishing,” he said.

“This park has a lot to offer,” Margaret said.

Both Margaret and Ken grew up around camping, so serving as campground hosts was nothing they hadn’t thought about.

“It was something we had talked about doing before we retired,” Ken said.

Their favorite part of the whole experience is getting to meet new people.

“Meeting with the various people; people from all over come here,” Margaret said.

“Most of the time, people who come to camp are here to relax, they are here to create memories with the family so when you talk to people they are not uptight,” Ken said.

The couple has to decide by January each year if they want to serve again.

“We make a decision every year, as long as we have the health to do it. . . ” she said.

Maggi Stivers

Maggi Stivers is a Multi-Media Journalist at the Bemidji Pioneer. She covers art and entertainment in the Bemidji area. She is a 2013 Bemidji State graduate majoring in mass communications with a minor in sociology. Contact her at (218) 333-9790 or

(218) 333-9790