Shades of Sherwood continues to make improvements

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Mike Thoreson, left, takes a short break with Mel Schneider at Schneider’s campsite at Shades of Sherwood Campground near Zumbrota. Thoreson is in his fourth season managing the campground. Schneider, of Elgin, is one of the seasonal campers at the campground and also an employee, working 25-30 hours per week doing general maintenance work. His son has a campsite next door and commutes to work in Dodge Center during the summer.

By Marilyn Anderson

ZUMBROTA – Tucked away along Sherwood Trail, two miles west of Highway 52 near milepost 81, Shades of Sherwood Campground has been popular since it was first developed by Olaf Peterson and sons in 1972. Since 2011, Mike and Sara Thoreson have managed the 77-acre campground, making improvements and changes each season.

Mike’s parents, Mark and Betty Thoreson, purchased the campground from Norman and Joan Clauson in 2002. Other managers operated the campground until Mike and Sara took over the duties. Mark and Betty also own the Lazy-D Campground and Trail Rides in the Whitewater valley near Altura.  

Mike anticipates that he and Sara will be taking over ownership of the campground in the future. The Thoresons moved to a house by the campground when they took on their management duties. Mike jokingly said the location is “a short commute to work and a bad place to hide!” The couple is expecting their first child shortly after the campground closes for the 2014 season.


The campground has 355 sites. Approximately half are occupied by seasonal campers, some who have spent their summers at Shades of Sherwood for nearly 30 years. “But we have a lot of new blood now, especially on the upper campground – younger couples with kids,” Mike said. The other sites are available for overnight or weekly campers. While most come with campers, tents sites are also available.

A wide variety of activities are available including a heated pool, river tubing, sand volleyball, mini golf, a playground, a camp store, a laundry facility, and more. Themed weekends and other special activities on weekends and holidays are popular.

The camping season runs from late April or early May to early October. The campground is full Memorial weekend, may slow down for a couple weeks due to graduations and school ending and picks up again later in June. Besides being booked over the Fourth of July holiday, it is reserved to capacity for some weekends in July and August. To increase camping during the week, Mike has been running some mid-week specials with a third night of camping free.

On busy weekends, Mike estimates up to 1200 people are at the campground. Many of the campers come from southeast Minnesota, but also from Iowa and Wisconsin. 

Improvements and staff

The biggest change at Shades of Sherwood was the addition of a water park that opened the summer of 2012. The facility is an acre in size with a sandy beach surrounding the 150 foot by 300 foot water area. Its addition has contributed immensely to the success of the campground, adding new customers who hadn’t camped there previously and increasing the number of families with children. The water park has also been popular for area residents. Rules, hours, cost, and additional information can be found on the website at http://shadesofsher

There are also four cabins for rent. The four small houses were totally remodeled, each offering a fully furnished kitchen, bathroom, living room, and bedrooms. Guests provide their own bedsheets, pillows and towels.

The camp store has been undergoing a “huge remodel” since last year. Campers can purchase groceries, firewood, ice and camping supplies as well as do laundry in the building. Arcade games are also available.

Another addition Mike has been working on this summer is to offer free Wi-Fi throughout the campground.

Year-round job

To get the work done at Shades of Sherwood, there are 14 seasonal employees, most who work 25-30 hours per week. Many of them live on-site as seasonal campers; others live nearby. In addition, four to five teens provide monitoring at the water park during its open hours.

When the camping season is over, it is time to winterize the facility and, Mike said, “try to take a break and get away before it is time to ramp up again.” In February, the Thoresons attend camping and vacation shows. For example, they attend one in Minneapolis to promote the campground and  another one in Wisconsin to get ideas.

Now in his fourth season of managing the campground, when asked about the challenges of running the facility, Mike replied, “Weather. Of course, people are a lot happier when the sun shines. We try to have a lot of things for kids to do, and are constantly looking for more activities to do for families.” 



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