FORT SILL, Okla. -- More than 1,600 Soldiers, chamber of commerce partners and their family members splashed into cool summer fun as the temperatures hit triple digits July 16 at the Military Appreciation and Family Fun Day at Lake Elmer Thomas Recreation Area.

People of all ages seemed to enjoy lakeside activities including watercraft, water slides, swimming, miniature golf and free food

The event, hosted by Team Sill Oklahoma Pride and Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, is sponsored by the Lawton Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce to recognize the contributions of the military to the Lawton Fort Sill community.

Brian Henry, chamber chairman of the board, said Soldiers and their families are an integral part of the community and of Southwest Oklahoma.

"The military makes up a large portion of the community and to celebrate the military family whether active duty, reservist or retired -- is important. That's what this event is about; getting together with the military family, their neighbors and friends to enjoy a day of fun and relaxation and an opportunity to meet new friends and catch up with old ones by bringing our community together for camaraderie and socializing in this beautiful lakeside setting."

Henry said the event is another example of the cooperation between Lawton and Fort Sill.

"Even with it being 115 degrees there are more than a thousand people out here. I've been coming out here since I was a kid, and I believe LETRA is one of the treasures of Fort Sill," he said.

Henry added that with the many opportunities at LETRA including miniature golf, canoeing, paddle boating, kayaking, fishing, swimming, water sliding, archery, camping, biking and hiking, there are plenty of ways to beat the heat.

Pfc. Jacob Reedy, Headquarters, Headquarters Battery, 75th Fires Brigade, and his daughters, Rhyann and Tatumn, were gearing up to take a paddleboat ride.

"We are really enjoying this event," he said. "This is about as good as it gets. With everything being free today, we want to try everything once."

The Patriot Club catering staff served a free lunch in LETRA Lodge from noon to 2 p.m. People started lining up before noon, and the line wrapped around the side of the building as people waited for their turn in the buffet-style line.

Brenda Spencer-Ragland, FMWR director, said the day is another great example of the cooperation between local residents and the chamber with Fort Sill and military families.

"Fort Sill and the local communities are demonstrating the Army Community Covenant principals of working together to optimize resources and opportunities through partnerships," she said.

Up from their home in Vernon, Texas, James Patterson and his family enjoyed camping at LETRA.

"We come here every year, and the last couple of years we managed to come at the same time as Family Fun Day so we have had a great time," he said. "I've already went down the water slide, and I still want to try the boats and miniature golf, although I know the water slide is my favorite thing to do."

Sgt. Patricia Dew, from the 208th Army Reserve Band at Charlotte, N.C., said the event was her first experience with LETRA.

"This is such an awesome recreation area, and the lake is very pretty. It makes me feel good to see military and local families get together to enjoy their free time in such a fun and relaxing setting," she said.