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Weekend signals start of busy time
Area merchants ready for summer
Shady Grove Campground likely will be full this Memorial Day weekend as campers enjoy the unofficial start of summer. - photo by Autumn McBride

The feeling of summer was apparent earlier this week at Port Royale Marina on Lake Lanier.

Boats were being scrubbed down, sunbathers were taking advantage of the pier area and diners were enjoying casual fare at Pelican Pete’s, the marina’s open air restaurant.

The afternoon was just a hint of what’s to come as the Memorial Day holiday weekend kicks off the start of the busy summer season for many local merchants.

“This is going to be one to break some records,” said William Archer, Port Royale’s rental and restaurant manager, of the upcoming weekend. “The season’s already ramped up early this year.

"We’re already at the amount of boat rentals and in the restaurant that we were at midseason last year.”

Archer attributed the early start to the summer season to higher than normal temperatures the past few weeks.

“With the weather as hot as it’s been, everyone wants to go get on the water,” he said.

And that water is high, with Lanier at 1,069.05 feet above sea level, close to its summer full pool.

While there weren’t as many people out at Shady Grove Campground, not far from Port Royale in northeastern Forsyth, the county-owned camping lots likely will be full starting Friday.

Jodi Gardner, the county’s spokeswoman, said the grounds are open from April to the beginning of November, so Memorial Day typically signals the start of a busy couple of months.

“July has typically been the busiest month, with an average of 28 site rentals a day,” she said. “May, June, September and October average around 21 rentals a day.”

She also noted that April and August are the slowest months of the campground’s season.

Before the opening of the grounds each year, she said, workers perform a variety of maintenance tasks to make sure the sites are ready for campers who come from across Georgia and other Southern states including Alabama and South Carolina. Others travel from as far as Ohio.

“This would include such things as replacing landscape timbers around the campsites, replacing boards on picnic tables, replacing grills and removing dead trees and limbs,” she said.

“This year the county renovated 35 sites by adding power and water and making them larger to accommodate larger RVs.”

Gardner noted funding for the improvements came from the voter-approved $100 million parks, recreation and green space bond.

Gas prices may have some impact on weekend travel plans, though Archer said he doesn’t think they’ll have much bearing.

He said he and his staff are preparing for record boat rentals this weekend.

“Gas prices have inched down a bit recently, so we don’t think that will have much impact,” he said. “Boaters this week have been surprised gas prices aren’t higher than they are.”

Jessica Brady, a spokeswoman for AAA Auto Club South, said the organization foresees even lower gas prices by this weekend, which could lead to more last-minute trips.

“Gas prices could drop another 5 cents before the Memorial holiday, causing more travelers to make last-minute decisions to take a trip before the three-day weekend,” she said.

Following the holiday weekend, parents will likely be looking for things to do with their young children since the last day of school in Forsyth County was Wednesday.

Brooke Hawkins, owner of Money Joe’s on Post Road, said summer can be “very good” for business.

The facility offers a number of large inflatable play areas for children, as well as concessions and rooms for private parties.

“It’s nice that despite the 90-, 95-degree heat to have somewhere with air conditioning so the parents won’t have heat strokes while their kids are out playing,” Hawkins said.

She said the facility’s private party business drops off some when school gets out, but there’s “more of a steady flow” of people walking in.

Hawkins takes advantage of the summer months by offering daily deals Monday through Friday.

“We have something special every day,” he said.

Archer is also expecting large numbers this summer.

“We expect a huge increase in business when school’s out,” he said.

Both the marina and children’s play facility hire seasonal help during summer, with many workers coming from the high school and college ranks.

“The difficult part is being able to have them here early [in the season] to train,” Archer said. “But that’s the nature of this business, there’s no down time in the beginning. It starts with a bang and keeps going all summer.”