FORT RUCKER, Ala. (May 24, 2012) -- Some walked along the shore or lay out in the sun while others paddled boats, played volleyball or built sandcastles. But whatever the activity, all seemed to enjoy the opening of swimming season May 19 at Lake Tholocco.

"This year's Lake Fest was a great success," said Kimberly Abeln, annual events coordinator for the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation. "I counted a lot of smiles on Saturday, so I think we can say with certainty that the event accomplished it's purpose of providing a low-cost and Family-friendly day of relaxation and fun for all ages."

About 2,500 Soldiers and Family members attended the event that included swimming, sandcastle contests, children's activities and more, she added.

Paddleboats and canoes are traditional favorites, but many Families also enjoyed Bubble Mania, a new feature that included bubble machines, bubble art and giant bubble wands.

"The kids had a wonderful time playing with all the colorful bubbles," Abeln said.

Denise Honeycutt, MWR partnership specialist, sat under a tent watching the sandcastle construction and waiting on the 3 p.m. judging. Contestants were divided into three different age groups for the competition, but everyone won because they had their own individual style, she said.

"It's a perfect day for this," she added. "The sun is out, but the wind is blowing so it's not too hot."

WO1 Dan Sweeney and his wife, Kelli, moved down from Minnesota the day before, but still decided to see what was going on at the festival. The two said they were looking forward to trying out the canoes, paddleboats, floating trampoline and the fried alligator on a stick.

"I plan on dunking her a few times," Dan added with a grin.

Sabrina Small attended Lake Fest with her sister, Cassandra Magana. The two walked up and down the dock wearing sun hats and watching the crowd on the beach.

"I've been eating and eating and eating," said Small, but "I love to people watch."
Away from the water and the sand, Shauni Minks waited patiently at a nearby picnic table as her daughter, Reagan, slid down an inflatable slide over and over again.

"This is all for her," Shauni said, "but the weather is great."