FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Sun and surf were in abundant supply at the 2011 Lake Fest on Lake Tholocco May 28 as Soldiers, Families and those from the local communities came out for a day of fun.

Kimberly Abeln, Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation annual events coordinator, said the event taking place during Memorial Day weekend made for near-perfect timing.

“Gas prices are just outrageous right now, so this is a great ‘staycation,’” she said. “I’m really looking forward to the food vendors we have this year.”

The free event included boat rides, a cannonball launch, pin-the-eye-patch-on-the-pirate, photo opportunities and a treasure hunt. There was a car show, sponsored by the Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers program, live music by The Springs, a sandcastle contest, volleyball tournament, swimming, and local and regional food vendors serving a wide variety of foods and beverages.

“This event kicked off the swimming season at Lake Tholocco and this is the only place where you can swim in a lake on post,” Abeln said.

Some Soldiers who attended the festivities with their Families said it was nice to have something close by that closely resembled a trip to the beach.

“When I came last year, it was a really great Family event, and I play on a volleyball team so I enjoyed doing that, too,” said 1st Lt. Brian Bertoglio. “When we want to go to the beach, we usually come here because it’s so close. You’ve got the sandy beach, the water and there’s all this stuff my son can play on that the (Florida beaches) don’t have.”

DFMWR staff and Families weren’t the only ones having fun at Lake Fest. Some food vendors who have been working the festival since its inception said they look forward to it every year.

“We appreciate everything they do out here,” said Troy Wilson, lemonade and fried alligator vendor from Abbeville, “I’ve been coming to this event since it started. I just enjoy the military, they are good people and we want to provide them a service because they do so much for us.”

Wilson said that alligator is something most might not expect to find at Lake Fest, which is why he serves it every year.

“I try to bring something different so people have a new experience,” he said. “It definitely doesn’t taste like chicken. When you eat it, you know you’re eating alligator.”

Wilson and his staff also prepared home-style lemonade, using real whole lemons for the festivities.