BELTON — The call of the wild held sway for families who arrived Saturday for an overnight campout at Heritage Park.
At noon they started checking in and pitching their tents along the Leon River, anticipating fishing, kayaking, hayrides, a compass course and having s’mores around the campfire.
Manuel Zapata, recreation coordinator for Belton Parks and Recreation, said the city brought additional kayaks, fishing lines and bait for those who needed them, and provided everyone with life jackets.
“This is our third family campout,” he said. “It’s always a great event. It’s our favorite event.”
He said he liked this event because he used to spend a lot of time in the outdoors.
“People provide their own tents,” Zapata said. “We have generators to help people air up their mattresses.”
Almost all of the campers would spend the night, he said. For the few individuals who did not, he said, there was a separate parking place, to preserve the camping atmosphere.
People had a lot of flexibility in participating in the many activities offered 3-7 p.m., he said. These included a “light jar craft” for children.
“The kids can decorate this jar,” he said. “At night it lights up.”
The Belton Public Library was scheduled to hold an 8 p.m. story time. Later an astrologer from Baylor University would talk about the heavens.
“Hopefully it’s going to be a clear night and we’ll be able to see the stars,” Zapata said.
Food trucks were available Saturday evening for people to make purchases. The city will provide a taco breakfast 6:30-8 a.m. today.
At 9 a.m. today, campers will have the option of attending a church service in the pecan grove or joining a yoga class. By 11 a.m. everybody is supposed to be packed up and cleared out.
Early Saturday afternoon, Luke and Kayla Potts of Belton were taking a break in the shade after setting up their tents, along with their daughters, Emily, 9, and Lilly, 4. Their son, Drew, 7, was waiting on the kayaking in the Leon River.
“Once it starts,” his dad said of the kayaking, “we’re all going to go.”
He and his wife said they came to the campout last year and really enjoyed it.
“The bonfire was fun,” Emily said.
Her father said he fell into the water last time.
“Somehow the launch went bad,” he said. “But I’m still back again.”
Two other families that came with them last year were back with them again, he said.
“We picked the exact same spot,” he said.
They would definitely be making a campfire after it got dark, Kayla said.
Damon and Casey Gottschalk were sitting in the shade of a nearby fly tent. Damon said their two children, Payton, 11, and Presley, 7, were running around playing.
“I think they’re down there looking at kayaks,” he said. “We’ll eventually get in the kayaks.”
Casey said they were resting after putting up all the tents.
“We’re trying to get our second wind,” she said.
Justin and Megan Barber of Temple were sitting in the shade with their daughter, Jameson, 9 months, and Megan’s mom, Kady Grant.
Megan said she thought their daughter, Carly, 9, went to help her grandfather, James Grant, superintendent of Belton Parks and Recreation, hand out s’mores.
They’ve been every year, she said, and Carly really likes it.
“By the end of it she’s got a new best friend,” she said.