The tangy sweet smell of barbeque drifted through the air at Crooked Creek Campground in Gaines, Saturday. Under bright blue skies interspersed with the fluffy cumulous clouds of summer, seven local teams competed in the Smoke on the Water barbecue cookoff. Campers and barbeque enthusiasts walked the campground tasting the different versions of pulled pork and voting on their favorite, while an inflatable water slide kept the children entertained.

Saturday’s cookoff was the first event for the season at the campground. People ready to enjoy the outdoors flocked to Crooked Creek for a weekend escape. Saturday also happened to be the summer solstice, the longest day of the year and the official start of summer.

The weekend event which also included a live bluegrass band later in the day was put together in less than a week. As the staff worked at putting together a Father’s Day event, they wanted to make also take the occasion to celebrate Mother’s Day, as the campground had been unable to host a Mother’s Day celebration in May. Brynn Pond, owner of Willy-Nilly Art Studio in Elkland was contacted and agreed to host a painting workshop, where mothers could get creative.

“It was awesome. COVID-19 had my business shut down so I was itching to get out and have some fun interacting with people,” Pond said.

Campers signed up beforehand and then Saturday at 2 p.m. Pond led the outdoor ‘sip and paint’ paint session. Attendees painted a 4th of July Gnome in the shade of a pavilion.

While COVID-19 shutdowns and regulations have impacted numerous businesses in the area, Crooked Creek Campground is actually noticing an increase in campers. Chad Zengerle, manager at Crooked Creek said the campground is actually busier than they have ever been.

“June is usually a slow month for us, but this year June has been busy,” Zengerle said. “I truly feel like everybody’s getting back to the outdoor life. Camper sales are the highest they have ever been. You walk around here at night and it is just full of kids, bicycles, people running. They are just outside more.”

With the increased interest in outdoor activities, campgrounds and state parks in Tioga and Potter Counties have provided a much-needed escape.

“It’s exciting for us. The best part is seeing people enjoying life, fishing, camping, starting campfires and getting back to nature,” Zengerle said.