Jocelyn and Ryan Midgett relocated from North Carolina with their two young children two months ago to oversee operations at the historic Ogontz Camp in Lyman. (Courtesy Photo) (click for larger version)
April 28, 2021LYMAN — The historic Ogontz Camp has been tucked into the forests of Lyman since 1923. Countless generations have formed lasting memories at the quintessential New England summer camp. But then COVID struck.
For several years, the 350-acre property operated as an all-girls camp. For the last three decades, the center almost exclusively hosted specialty music groups from around the world. It now faces a second summer without such programming.
Earlier this year, Ryan and Jocelyn Midgett relocated from North Carolina to assume management of the historic property. The husband-and-wife team brings several years of tourism and hospitality experience to the table.
"COVID threw our last business for a loop, and we were looking to start fresh. At the same time, Ogontz decided they needed to reset what they were doing. It was a perfect fit for all of us," explained Ryan Midgett.
The couple first met while operating a bed and breakfast together on Nantucket Island. While Ryan has many years of general property management experience, Jocelyn is a chef. They moved south from Cape Cod to North Carolina, opened a catering and meal prep company and offered wedding photography services for the last ten years.
"We do quite a bit together. Often, it's hard for people to understand how a husband and wife can work together, but that's how we met. We much prefer it than to being apart," stated Jocelyn.
"Ryan handled the general organization and staffing for our company and I handled the hospitality side. We work really well as a team," she added.
While the Midgetts said they intend to continue booking large group events on the weekends, they also plan to shift the property to an all-inclusive resort for families.
"This camp has never operated as a hospitality business before, and we've come in to build it from the ground up. We want to become more inclusive, especially with the local community. We plan to host events and meals that are open to the public so people can enjoy the lake and all of our features," said Midgett.
The first event has already been scheduled for Independence Day, said the couple. They intend to make it an annual event.
"We already do fireworks on the lake for weddings. We thought we'd open it up and invite the local community," said the chef.
Although the vision may be shifting for Ogontz, a new kind of summer camp will come online this year. A new day camp called Ogontz Little Explorer's Club focuses on providing immersive nature experiences to local children between the ages of five and 14. The program is open to children from Littleton, Sugar Hill, Franconia and the greater Grafton County area.
"We have young children and were looking for a way to engage more with the outdoors. Part of what we want to do is create environmental stewardship within the next generation, especially with all of this gorgeous land," said the mother of two.
"We wanted to incorporate both the outdoors and the property owners' love for the arts into the program and help the local community. The children can be outside, away from electronics and experiencing the great outdoors in a safe way," she continued.
"I love the outdoors and grew up hunting and fishing with my family. It's something near and dear to me, and I look forward to being able to create an experience for families. Ogontz is a hidden gem," added the chef.
"I'm excited to get Ogontz back on its feet after COVID. It was a tough year. This business model is entirely new for them and it's exciting to see where it can lead us. Our eventual goal is to become a four-season destination," added her husband.