|Updated: 9/04/2012 10:02 am
||Published: 9/03/2012 5:14 pm
Area lakes were packed full of people trying to make the most of the unofficial end to summer on Labor Day Monday.
The crowds were much needed for lake businesses that are still trying to bounce back from last year's blue-green algae outbreak.
What a difference a year makes.
On Labor Day 2011, many business owners on Grand Lake were not even sure they could stay afloat to make it to the summer of 2012. But after one of the worst business years on Grand Lake in recent memory, some business owners said 2012 has been one of the lake's best.
"I'm sure there's been tough times, but in the five years that I've been here this is the word I've ever seen," Sam Williams, owner of Grand Lake Sports Center, said.
That was how Williams described the situation in Grove on Labor Day in 2011. He was quite worried after seeing only a fraction of the summer business he was used to.
"I think everybody struggled," Williams said this Labor Day. They hung in there."
Williams said the summer of 2011 started out great, but when blue-green algae forced Grand Lake to shut down on July Fourth weekend, typically the busiest weekend of the year for most lake businesses, everything seemed to stop and Williams had to get used to seeing his cash register empty.
But one year later things couldn't be more different.
"This summer's been incredible," Williams said.
Not only has there been a ton of people at the lake all summer, but they've been spending big bucks.
"I think they got deprived of their vacations last year, like we had issues with, and they're making up for it this year," Williams said.
Robin Clausen is one of those people spending money in Grove on a vacation down from Wichita, Kansas.
"[I went] parasailing, and I went gambling," Clausen said. "First time in a casino and I won money!"
"I went to a couple different clubs, and shopping. And everything's been really neat, and the food's been good and the service has been good."
It's a comment that's music to Williams' ears.
"There are new little businesses coming in here, and they've done well," he said. "They couldn't have picked a better year to try to start something up."
It's another step in the right direction that will keep Clausen coming back and bringing her friends.
"I'm ready to come back when I leave," Clausen said. "Before next summer!"
It's a promising sign for Williams and his fellow business owners.
"The way the community has pulled together to bring tourism in here, I only see it getting better and better and better," he said.
Williams has owned his store for the past six years, but it's been in his family for generations. He said this summer has been one of the best for the business in the 62 years it's been open.
Williams said there's plenty to look forward to, as well. In February, lake business owners will get a rare winter business boost when a championship bass fishing tournament comes to Grand Lake.