Larry and Sheryl Johnson of Whalan were named Operators of the Year by the Minnesota Resort and Campground Association during its fall conference last week. The couple is shown above holding their award.
Larry and Sheryl Johnson of Whalan were named Operators of the Year by the Minnesota Resort and Campground Association during its fall conference last week. The couple is shown above holding their award.
The Minnesota Resort and Campground Association has selected Larry and Sheryl Johnson of Cedar Valley Resort in Whalan as its 2013 Operators of the Year. The selection was announced during the MRCA's Fall Conference on Oct. 23 at Grand View Lodge in Nisswa.

The Operator of the Year award recognizes leadership and excellence in areas such as management ability, active participation in tourism-related local/state organizations, community leadership and other criteria. The presentation was made by Ron Rykken of Timber Bay Lodge and Houseboats in Babbitt, last year's recipient.

Larry and Sheryl are both natives of southeastern Minnesota and attended Lanesboro High School. Larry had grown up vacationing at Minnesota resorts and dreamed of owning his own resort. In the meantime, he took over running the family's mink farm in Whalan, located near Lanesboro. Larry and Sheryl began visiting resorts for sale in northern Minnesota but didn't see what they were looking for. Eventually, they realized they were already sitting on a prime location.

The mink farm was set in a valley along the Root River with the Root River Trail running right through it. The trail is popular with bikers, hikers and skiers while the river is perfect for kayaking, canoeing and tubing as well as fishing. While there was no lake in sight, the Johnsons still appreciated the recreational value of the region and began converting the farm into a resort.

Cedar Valley Resort opened in 2001 and at guests' requests, added larger cabins in subsequent years for large groups and family reunions. Now in its 13th season, the resort offers nine cabins with three to eight bedrooms. The largest sleeps 40 people.

Larry and Sheryl are active in their community, both having served on the Lanesboro Chamber of Commerce and the Lutheran church council, as well as volunteering as sports photographers for Lanesboro High School. Larry began serving on the Whalan City Council while in his 20s and two years later, was elected mayor, a position he continues to hold.

The couple raised two children on the resort. Daughter Brittany recently graduated from college and now works full-time at the resort. Their son, Lucas, is a student at Iowa State.

Julie Kiehne, executive director of the Lanesboro Chamber, appreciates the impact the Johnsons have made in their area. She said, "Cedar Valley Resort has grown to be a destination business and has an excellent reputation for high quality hospitality and customer service. The resort is a shining example of how a small business can do big things."

The Minnesota Resort and Campground Association provides marketing, legislative advocacy, education and networking for resorts and campgrounds throughout Minnesota.