Bernie Sanders is proving to be good for the campground business. Campgrounds outside Philadelphia are getting booked up by Sanders supporters planning to protest during this month's Democratic National Convention.
Thirty miles south of the city, all 200 short-term camp sites at the Four Seasons in Pilesgrove, New Jersey, have been booked during the week of the DNC, the vast majority by Sanders backers, said Cheryl Robinson, one of the owners. Requests for the remaining long-term sites are also starting to pile up. Robinson said that Four Seasons has been booked up only during major holidays and when Pope Francis visited Philadelphia last year.
"We are getting phone calls constantly," Robinson said. "A lot of times they don't want to let us know that they're Bernie supporters. We ask if they're coming for Occupy the DNC, and then they kind of giggle and embarrassedly say, 'Yes, we are.' "
Sanders supporters are expecting tens of thousands to take part in rallies and demonstrations while the Democrats are in Philadelphia from July 25-28.
It's not just Four Seasons that's seeing an uptick in business in southern New Jersey, during what is normally a lull in between the Fourth of July and Labor Day. Timberlane, in Clarksboro, and other campgrounds are getting booked up, and spots at Parvin State Park in Elmer are starting to go, said Laurie Cestnick, a Massachusetts neuroscientist and organizer of the Occupy the DNC Facebook page. All are less than an hour's drive from Philadelphia.
Kimberly Bernstroff, a disabled veteran from Las Vegas, is planning to come to the DNC with her two children. Her father is flying in all the way from the Philippines to attend with her.
They plan to camp out in tents at the Four Seasons because a room is too expensive. Hotel rooms where delegates are staying cost are costing about $500 a night and even hotel rooms outside Philadelphia cost $150 or more a night.
"My father will be protesting, and I will be showing up," said Bernstroff, adding that she has "not decided on the extent of my involvement" because of her children.
Robinson plans to put Sanders supporters in sites next to one another and is preparing extra space in case all long-term sites book out, as well, saying they have "no plan to turn anybody away."
"They seem to be like old hippies, or young hippies if you will, just people who are just easygoing and laid-back," she said. "One lady says 'all we're going to do is sing 'Kumbaya.' "
Though Robinson isn't a Sanders supporter, she's considering making "Four Seasons feels the Bern" shirts for her customers who are.