Tradition Starts at Triggs Bay Resort
For over 70 years, Triggs Bay Resort has been an Okoboji vacation destination for families near and far. The popular family-owned resort is tucked in a bay on the south side of East Lake Okoboji and located in the heart of Okoboji summer fun.
For owner Mike May and his wife Marge, the bustle of summer creates yearly memories and their patrons become close friends, as families return year after year.
“We have an enormous number of loyal customers returning every year. It can be hard for people to get a reservation during certain weeks,” Mike said. “We just love seeing their smiles as they come; you just love these people as they become some of your best friends.”
Family-Owned for 73 Years and Counting
Chester Triggs, Marge’s father opened Triggs Bay Resort in 1950, initially with only 10 cabins and named after former United States presidents. Mike said some serious renovations took place in the 1960s, and Mike and his brother-in-law took over managerial roles at the resort during the mid-1970s, after Chester passed away.
“I was teaching school at the time still, so Jim and I ran the resort together and continued to make improvements,” Mike shared. “It was a great arrangement, and our philosophy has always been to continually create a better resort. Any money made gets put back into improvements, as we make decisions for the betterment of our customers.”
Through the years, new buildings have been built and rooms renovated, allowing reservations for 48 rooms looking out at beautiful blue waters. Each condo unit comes with one-two bedrooms, hide-a-beds, kitchenettes, and sleeps six.
“We purchased a property to the north in 1989, building on it in 1994 that included 10 condos," he explained. "While in 1993 during the flood, we purchased the house and property nearby that also allowed us to add 12 more units.”
In 1997, they gutted and added space to their east building. In 2004, they tore down the west beach condo unit and built a gorgeous new building. They’ve also recently improved their decks and added a canopy.
“Now, we’re in the process of renovating a group of rooms every winter, continuing to improve the resort for our customers,” Mike added.
Seven years ago, Mike and Marge bought out Jim and Denise. Mike spends many of his waking hours at the resort. Several of his children and their families take an active role in the running of the resort, especially during the summer months. Marge still keeps the resort's books, after years of helping with general operations.
“Our kids Mike and Lisa love the resort and we’re gradually beginning to turn it over to them,” Mike said. “However, our rocks are Roland and Barbie Schmidt, who serve as managerial staff and run many aspects of Triggs Bay throughout the year. We appreciate them so much and I don’t know what I’d do without them.”
Fun and Play
Whether it’s renting watercrafts, morning runs along the lake, short walks to and from Arnolds Park, Triggs brings so many possibilities and activity to a vacation.
Guests enjoy the outdoor pool, as well as over 500 feet of shoreline that includes a spacious, natural sand beach and a boat ramp, four boat docks and boat hoist rentals. The playground is always busy with their smallest guests and many families enjoy the picnic area for grilling and a night outside.
The resort rents out powerboats, pontoons, PWC(s), paddleboards, water bikes, kayaks, and canoes to its guests, as well as the general public. There’s an indoor game room for a rainy day where families love to gather.
“We love to hear the laughter throughout the resort all day long; it just brings such joy to our hearts. As these families continue to come back year after year, you gain really close friendships and they often become your best friends,” Barbie Schmidt shared.
The season lasts just a glimmer of the year, with guests checking in every Sunday from mid-May through September. Barbie oversees room cleaning throughout the season, reservations during the winter, and many rooms are filled with Barbie’s artwork. Working for her old track coach, she enjoys being outside and watching families grow up.
“Roland and Barbie play a huge role at the resort; I don’t know what we’d do without them as they take ownership in all the things we do. Roland started helping when he moved here in 1995, and we taught together at Spirit Lake. Every year since, they’ve helped the resort be successful and their kids grew up helping alongside. Whether it’s cleaning out the pool or Barbie overseeing the redecorating of the rooms, we are so thankful for them and how they love Triggs Bay as much as we do,” Mike said.
One family has been coming for 62 years. Rich and Carol first came for their honeymoon and have returned every year since. Now, they rent 15 rooms and bring 75 of their family. Other families return every year, often at the same time as others, allowing their kids to build friendships.
“One family said they asked their kids if they would rather take a year break and go to Disney instead and their children said ‘No! We love going to Triggs!’” Barbie said.
Every weekend is busy, but especially July 4th week. Extra festivities take place and people enjoy the area. In May, a group from Fort Dodge hosts their own “Walleye Weekend” at Triggs, an event they have hosted the past 40 years.
“It’s so much fun to see them enjoy the area and they welcome anyone,” Mike explained. “It really starts out our summer, they welcome everyone and they give a prize to every kid who comes to fish.”
While Mike loves connecting with his patrons every summer, one of his favorite things each season is working with his staff of local high school and college kids. Whether they clean rooms or sell gas, he enjoys building a relationship with each one.
“I think one of my favorite things about the summer is working with these amazing young people, and it’s always my goal to help them in some way for their future,” he shared. “We’ve had so many successful kids leave here to become teachers, doctors, and engineers. I really love watching the kids grow.”
Mike taught at Arnolds Park from 1968-1973 and then taught at Spirit Lake for 27 years, retiring in 2000. He also served in the Iowa House of Representatives from 2005 through 2011 and has been serving on the Iowa Board of Education for the past 12 years.
“I always said I’d work 16 months out of the year,” he said with a laugh. “During the fall and spring, I’d be working at both places.”
Even though retired from impacting students daily during the school year, the impact he has on his young staff is immense.
“It is such a joy to watch Mike impact the kids that come here. He finds some way to help them grow and mature, whether it’s through communicating with adults to building confidence,” Barbie shared.
One of few remaining family-owned resorts, Triggs Bay Resort has it all! For $1200 a week, a family can stay for seven days and seven nights.
“We had a family call from California ask about prices and couldn’t believe how little a week was. She didn’t expect much with her stay,” Mike said. “However, my desire is to have a place where middle class families can afford a summer vacation a week out of the year! Where they can create memories that last for a lifetime.”
Creating memories and building relationships, Mike May and his staff build traditions and impact families for generations. For more information on Triggs Bay Resort, visit triggsbayresort.com.