Boat rentals await use off a mostly empty Naples Causeway on Sept. 1. Emily Bader / Lakes Region Weekly

NAPLES — As coronavirus-driven cancellations at Loon’s Haven Family Campground piled up ahead of Memorial Day, operations manager Billie McNamara thought it likely would be a devastating summer season for the family-owned business.

But to her surprise, the 59-year-old campground has been fully booked every weekend since it was able to open in May, McNamara said.

“Just looking at numbers, we have done better this year than I projected even before the pandemic. We’ve exceeded those (numbers),” said McNamara, who has worked at Loon’s Haven for two years.

A “Keep Sebago Lakes Region Healthy” sign on the Naples Causeway reminds people of COVID-19 prevention guidelines. Emily Bader / Lakes Region Weekly

She said she’s seeing more and more locals “enjoying Maine,” a switch from the campground’s typical 70:30 ratio of out-of-state visitors – mostly from Massachusetts, Connecticut and beyond – to Mainers.

Most out-of-state visitors this year are from New Hampshire and Vermont, states where quarantine restrictions are less strict, but the vast majority of campers are Mainers, she said.

“The biggest surprise was that we saw a lot of people who were new to camping. It’s been a little bit of an education thing … (But) we were here to help them,” McNamara said.

“I’m very happy. I’m very tired,” she said.

Although other businesses say they can’t match the success of Loon Haven, they have been able to keep their doors open, something that wasn’t a given when they were interviewed by the Lakes Region Weekly at the start of the season.

Marie Kushner, who owns Marie’s Kitchen on Roosevelt Trail, said her restaurant and catering businesses has “evolved” to keep costs down and business steady. She closes two days a week and employs only four staff members instead of the usual seven.

While she’s been able to host lakefront diners at her restaurant on Long Lake, one major shift she’s seen is in who is purchasing her pre-packaged meals.

In previous years, Kushner’s personal chef service skewed more toward second-home owners coming up to Naples for the weekend.

“They come up to an empty refrigerator. (Now) I would say the majority of them are working up here from (their) camp and have stocked refrigerators, they have food and don’t need to go out,” she said.

Instead she’s seeing more locals and older clientele who might be wary of dining out or going grocery shopping using her dinner service.

And although she lost all of her major catering contracts for the summer, Kushner said she’s booked almost every weekend until October for smaller weddings, mostly in people’s backyards.

“I think people are realizing that they can save money and have less stress by having smaller weddings at home,” Kushner said this week. “The little events are keeping me afloat.”

The number of passengers on the Songo River Queen II, seen above, has been down this summer, said owner Kent Uicker. Emily Bader / Lakes Region Weekly

A couple of the weddings Kushner has catered were held on the Songo River Queen II, a Mississippi River paddlewheel cruise boat replica owned by Kent Uicker, who runs the boat tour company on Long Lake.

Uicker said Monday that business was as “good as can be expected,” but that “we got through it best we could and we’ll be around for next year.”

With the capacity restrictions on outside gatherings, Uicker said they did not open until July 1 when the limit increased from 10 to 50, but even so, “the pandemic kept our numbers down.”

He won’t know how much money he lost until he closes the books in October, he said, but maintained that “I pretty much got what I expected, which was a very reduced year of business.”

Town Manager John Hawley said that businesses have “made every attempt they could to follow the (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines.”

The town is participating in the “Keep Sebago Lakes Region Healthy” campaign, organized by the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce and the Windham Economic Development Corporation.

Residents and visitors in town have mostly been compliant, he said.

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