FARMINGTON HILLS — Dozens of families from around the Farmington area gathered in Heritage Park for an overnight nature adventure at the Great Farmington Hills Campout Saturday, June 8.
For many families, it was test.
This not-far-from-home night of roughing it would provide the basic information they’d need to know and a chance to see how the kids would do, should they ever decide to venture to the great outdoors a little farther away and for a little longer than one night.
“There’s no power at any of the sites, so we really are actually roughing it, but it’s just the one night,” said April Heier, the Farmington Hills recreation supervisor who coordinated the event. “A lot of people are actually trying it for the first time — it’s close to home and it makes sense to try it here before driving a long way to try camping for the first time.
“Not everyone makes it through the night — they give it a try and decided, ‘Well, camping is not for us,’ and leave — but the ones who do usually love it and come back the following year.”
At a cost of $25 per site, with a hot dog dinner and pancake breakfast included, it’s not a bad gamble, and in its seventh year, 87 families opted to give the campout a try.
Some were seasoned campers, but most weren’t. Many of them were trying out camping for the first time, or for the first time as parents.
“We used to, but it’s been awhile since we went camping,” said Farmington Hills resident JP LaPorte. “The kids are the right age now, they’re 5 and 3, so we figured we’d give it a try and see how it goes.”
“We’ve been thinking of, for a really long time, to camp, and we are first-timers — we didn’t know what to expect,” said Farmington Hills resident Nissa Nizar. “These are our neighbors next to us, so we talked to them and they said they are ready to do it, too, so here we are to try it out. I’m looking forward to it. It should be lots of fun, and I hope everything goes as expected.”
Nizar’s two children were just as excited. For 8-year-old Mishal Nizar, the campout meant a night of fun with friends. The Nizars’ neighbors, the Rosrigues family, have a daughter around the same age as Mishal, and the two play together often.
“I’m looking forward to camping out with my friend, and some of my other friends are coming, and I’m looking forward to finding them here,” said Mishal Nizar.
The campout offered an assortment of fun — from the splash zone and playground, to henna tattoos and sidewalk chalk offered by a local Girl Scouts troop, and later in the evening, there’d be even more to do — geocaching courtesy of Oakland County Parks, nighttime nature walks, hot dogs, s’mores and songs by the campfire.
“(Oakland County Parks) are out in the park right now setting up caches, and they brought GPS units people can borrow to try it. You know, a lot of people don’t want to invest thousands in a GPS unit if they’ve never tried it and don’t know if they will like it,” Heier said.
The local Optimist Club, which also does the cooking for the event, offers casting practice on the hillside, and Dick’s Sporting Goods brings out a slew of camping gear — everything from tents, lanterns and chairs to fishing poles, tackle and coolers — for giveaways during the night.
Despite the flurry of activities, the campout isn’t designed to be action-packed.
“It’s pretty much just families enjoying their free time — they can enjoy the trails and the playgrounds and just walk around the park, or they can join in on the activities,” said Heier.
“We want to give the family time to just chill and relax. Most of our events here are go, go, go, go, go, but this is more relaxed family time to enjoy nature.” And each other.