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For Resort Towns, This Could Be a Cruel Summer

With summer vacation in flux, how will tourist-dependent regions, beach towns, and other family getaway destinations in the U.S. survive?
Aqua the Clown waits for his cue to perform during the Tommy Bartlett Show in Wisconsin Dells on Lake Delton, Wisconsin. The self-proclaimed "waterpark capital of the world" is uneasily awaiting the start of the summer tourist season this year.
Aqua the Clown waits for his cue to perform during the Tommy Bartlett Show in Wisconsin Dells on Lake Delton, Wisconsin. The self-proclaimed "waterpark capital of the world" is uneasily awaiting the start of the summer tourist season this year.Chris Walker/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

For Dan Dhooghe, a summer isn’t complete without family trips to the Wisconsin Dells. The self-proclaimed “Waterpark Capital of the World” has offered generations of Midwestern kids, including Dhooghe’s two boys, an enticing combination of water slides, fudge shops, duck boats, and kitschy entertainment, like Tommy Bartlett’s water ski and jumping boat thrill show.  

Dhooghe, a retired deputy police chief in Aurora, Illinois, and his wife, Linda, have made this central Wisconsin destination their annual vacation spot for the last 20 years. Sons Jason, 23, and Sean, 21, have long since traded amusement rides for golf courses, but they still look forward to spending a week or two unwinding at the family’s condo at the Wilderness on the Lake resort.