“Long story short, [the old owners] just packed up and left, pretty much leaving everyone who was here high and dry,” McTague says.
McTague and his co-owners are devoted to renovating and improving the campground.
“We put a new sound and light system into the bar,” he says. “It’s equal to any bar that anyone would go into in Atlanta.”
Despite the improvements, McTague said the most important changes aren’t physical.
“Pretty much a whole new attitude, a new place, a clean place that is kept up,” McTague says of Oz. “It’s just a completely new attitude from the ownership. We believe that is it is ‘our’ campground, and by ‘our’ we mean gay lesbian, bisexual, transgender. We may pay the mortgage but it is our place for everyone in the community.”
McTague and the other owners will be asking campers to participate in a survey this summer so they can better tailor the camp to what the campers want.
Oz made a quiet opening at the beginning of May but will kick off its grand opening Memorial Day weekend with drag legend Charlie Brown, DJ StevenP and a community BBQ. The camp follows up their opening with a stream of theme weekends.
Like most of the gay owned camps in Georgia, Oz is clothing optional, but doesn’t have a firm age minimum. So while families are welcome there are some ground rules campers should be aware of.
“That’s the one thing that people need to understand, we can’t tell people to put their clothes on,” McTague says. “That’s one of the points of the survey, is would you like a weekend where we are not clothing optional.”
Something for everyone
Each LGBT campground has its own flavor and personality. Swiftwaters Womanspace, located near Dahlonega, is the only campground owned by open lesbians in Georgia. It is intentionally rustic, with only an outhouse, shower house, simple cabins and a small bed and breakfast. It doesn’t offer RV hookups, and clothing is required.
In contrast, River’s Edge in Dewy Rose, Ga., has 95 tent sites, 95 RV sites and 95 cabins with a capacity of 1,000 people.
Dan Hoffman, River’s Edge office manager, describes the camp as an “adult playground.”
“It’s a very relaxed atmosphere, and I’d like to emphasize clothing optional, some do and some don’t,” he says. “River’s Edge, our philosophy is be comfortable as you want to be.”
River’s Edge requires all campers be at least 21, while nearby In The Woods — located in Canon, Ga. — has a 19-year-old age requirement, and prides itself on being smaller and calmer than other campgrounds.
“We liken ourselves to a neighborhood bar, we’re not a discotheque, if you’re looking for a club atmosphere you’re going to be disappointed, were much more like your neighborhood club,” owner Tom Britton says. “We’re like Cheers, where everyone knows everyone else.”
Roy’s Hideaway in Collins is building a reputation as an expansive retreat for a growing number of gay men who want a place outside of the city.
“We’ve been having a good crowd every weekend. We have probably 34 full time residents, a lot of them live in Atlanta and come here for the weekends,” Roy McElroy says.
McElroy and his partner have been improving the four-year-old campground and added a new café and lodging options.
“It’s a real safe common ground for people to meet at,” he says. “There are a lot of people who aren’t into the bar scene who come here. We’ve had a lot of people find partners here.”
Top photo: Formerly Lumberjacks, Oz Campground hosts a grand opening Memorial Day weekend to introduce its new, renovated facilities. (Courtesy photo)