The 12th annual Turtle Festival, presented by the Belton Kiwanis Club, will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Yettie Polk Park in Belton.
The free community event will include games, bounce houses, a petting farm, crafts, live music, vendors and turtle-themed activities.
Pearl Fellingham, community service chairwoman, said this year’s festival will have more vendors and attractions than ever, including a new addition this year: a climbing wall.
“It’s a stretch for us, but we’re doing it,” she said.
Pearl said the festival will have 17 non-profit vendors, 35 regular vendors and 11 food vendors.
Monte Fellingham, past president and Turtle Festival committee chairman, said live entertainment will be provided between 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. by school and community groups.
He said between 3,000 and 4,000 people usually attend the festival.
“We’ve had as high as 5,000 that have attended at different times over the last 12 years that we’ve put this on,” he said.
Monte also said this year’s event is dedicated to club secretary Rhonda Hershey, who coordinated the festival in past years, but has been unable to recently because of health issues.
Two of the main attractions during Turtle Festival are the Live Turtle Race and the Ultimate Turtle Race.
The live race will begin at 1:30 p.m. Turtle owners can bring their pets to the event and register for the race at the Kiwanis tent.
“They can put a costume on their turtle if they want to,” Pearl said. “People really enjoy it, and you know what your turtle looks like if it’s wearing a red Superman cape.”
The Ultimate Turtle Race will begin at 3:30 p.m. when 1,000 rubber turtles are released into Nolan Creek. The turtles are numbered and available for sponsorships for $5 each. The grand prize for the fastest floating rubber turtle will be $1,000.
Turtle Festival is Kiwanis Club’s main fundraiser, and proceeds will go toward club projects, including service leadership programs in Belton schools. Pearl said the club has programs in two elementary schools, one middle school and both high schools in Belton Independent School District.
“We would like to be able to expand those programs to the other schools in BISD, but it takes people power and it takes funds, and this is what our funding goes to is service leadership programs in the schools,” she said.
Pearl said proceeds also support the annual citizenship award program, which kicks off in May. Every middle and elementary school in the district has awardees from their campus from the fifth and eighth grade classes.
“It’s one of the most prestigious awards given from the community to schools, and our schools love them,” she said.
Pearl said the Kiwanis Club also purchases books for the school libraries, provides scholarships for K-Club members, and supports the Lena Armstrong Public Library and other community programs.