Fort Sill 'Punkin Patch' beats expectations
October 24, 2013
By Monica Wood
FORT SILL, Okla. -- More than 1,800 people of all ages turned out at Lake Elmer Thomas Recreation Area for Fort Sill's first Pumpkin Patch and family activities Oct. 19, 2013. There were many free activities including the pumpkin patch, the climbing rock wall, paddle boat races, miniature golf, hayrides, water balloon toss and paintball shooting range.
"The number of people who came out to the event far exceeded what we were expecting," said Mark Houseman, manager of LETRA and organizer of the event. "We were expecting between 200 and 500 people to come to the event and we had between 1,800 and 2,000 over the four hours of the event."
The pumpkin patch is one of the many family-friendly events planned on post to encourage a healthy and active lifestyle through the Operation Live Well campaign, offered lots of fun and exercise for every member of the family.
"We planned this event with the intent of providing a lot of family-oriented events that would get everyone moving and enjoying the outdoors," said Houseman. "Between the rock climbing wall, the paddle boat races, miniature golf and picking the perfect pumpkin, there was lots of exercise opportunities for everyone. And LETRA is a great place to bring the family for safe activities in the great outdoors."
Houseman said the pumpkin patch might have been the main event but there were lots of other things to do.
"We had the pumpkin patch itself, the rock climbing wall, paddle boat races, the hayrides, water balloon launch station, paintball target range and miniature golf. We also had the playground, which is centrally located for the kids to play while their parents watched them.
"There were so many kids out there and everyone seemed to have a good time. We have already started planning on expanding the event next year to ensure there are plenty of pumpkins for everyone and we are thinking about adding a haunted house inside the lodge and a pumpkin chucking contest," said Houseman. "We plan to continue to grow this event in the future to get more people out to LETRA to see what's available and everything we offer, even in the off season."
Houseman said the event went off so well due to the efforts of many. "In particular, I'd like to recognize the marketing office for their work and Country Mart who sponsored 100 big, beautiful pumpkins."
The LETRA staff also played a large part in making the event a success, said Houseman. "We only had a crew of eight people and everyone worked really hard leading up to and through this event. I would really like to thank my staff - Jeff Jerles, Jack Kimbrough, Randy Curtis, Jim Little, Kern Kamaunu, Dana Whitman and Eric Nickles - for all their hard work and dedication to making it a success."
All the activities at the event were free and the only things that had a price on them were some of the grab bags and items in the country store. "We wanted to give back to our Fort Sill Soldiers and the community and I'm so glad they came out and brought their families," he said. "I hope we can continue to grow this event and offer even more for the community next year and get even more people from the surrounding communities to come see all that LETRA has to offer."
According to Houseman the next big event at LETRA is the Polar Bear Plunge on Jan. 11.
"There will be a 5K run for everyone and a cub crawl for the younger runners. Then of course those who want to can take the plunge in the lake. We encourage everyone to wear costumes for the Polar Bear Plunge and we will give awards to the individuals and groups with the best costumes," he said.
Houseman is improving LETRA in other ways, too. "We are finishing up the disk golf course which should be ready for use next week. Disk golf is another great form of exercise and the beauty is that you don't realize you're exercising because you are having fun," he said. "It is another activity that will be available year-round."
Other plans in the works include a paintball course at LETRA on the east side of the lake.
"We are hoping to get it approved and offer another year-round activity. We want LETRA to be the year-round place to go for family fun and exercise or just to enjoy the beauty of nature," he said.