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Join The Great American Family Campout on July 14
POSTED: 06/19/2012
Bring the family and take part in a unique and fun camping experience in Johnson County's largest park. The event is called The Great American Family Campout and will take place on July 14 and 15 in Shawnee Mission Park.

“The most important thing is to get families spending time together outdoors and enjoying nature,” said Children’s Services Specialist Rob Knaussman, who organizes this event. “Many kids these days spend several hours a week plugged into video games, iPods, computers, etc. It is so important that we get them out in nature and enjoying their time outdoors.”

In addition to spending a night under the stars, campers will receive passes for Shawnee Mission Park Beach and a pedal boat rental at the marina. To make the evening even more special, tickets are also included for a Disney Double Feature at The Theatre in the Park – "Disney's The Jungle Book Kids" and "Disney's Sleeping Beauty."

Bass Pro Shop and Backwoods outdoor equipment are presenting sponsors for this year's campout. As an additional activity option, Backwoods will bring a portable rock climbing wall for participants to try out.

The Great American Family Campout begins at 2 p.m. on Saturday and will continue through about 10 a.m. on Sunday. The campsites will be in a large open field directly to the south of The Theatre in the Park complex and north of Shelter 2 in the Small Lakes area. The theatre entrance to Shawnee Mission Park is located at 7710 Renner Road in Shawnee.

Campers will need to bring their own camping equipment including tents, sleeping bags, etc. Saturday evening dinner is not provided. Community grills are available at Shelter 2. Donuts, juice, and milk will be provided Sunday morning. The cost for this 20-hour event is $20 per person for adults and $15 per person for children three and up. To register, call (913) 831-3359 or go to the Register Here page at and search for program barcode 7215.

JCPRD Children’s Services staff will be on hand throughout the night and Park Police will also have a presence.

This event ties into a National Wildlife Federation event called the Great American Backyard Campout, which encourages people to camp out in their backyards on these dates. JCPRD has presented eight campouts since 2008 with a total of more than 900 people participating. The July event will be the only public camping opportunity at Shawnee Mission Park in 2012.

Jesse Bruce and his wife, Jennifer, have participated in the campouts during the past two years.

“We had never done any camping before, so it was a way to get used to doing that, the Kansas City, Mo., resident said. “It was a nice relaxed atmosphere. We liked being able to go to the show and just walk back to our tent and go to sleep without going anywhere. We’re planning on going again this year.”

Kevin Kelley of Shawnee has participated in the event three times with various combinations of his four children ages seven five, three, and one and their cousins from Wichita.

“It was an easy way to introduce the kids to camping without having to pack up and go two hours away,” Kelley said. “My kids also love the organized marshmallows and s’mores around the campfire. It’s a good opportunity for the kids to stay up late in a controlled environment.”

Alice Snider of Lenexa said she participated in the 2011 event with her husband and children ages six and eight.

“We enjoyed all of it,” she said. “It was a low-stress weekend. We got to enjoy the park all day and went to the beach, and we hiked, and we did the pedal boats at the marina. We also love The Theatre in the Park and we thought it would be a great pairing of the two in a manageable camping setting.”

Robert Neighbour of Lenexa tries to make participating in the campout with his daughter, now eight, an annual event.

“My daughter and I like to camp and we always wanted to camp in Shawnee Mission Park,” he said. “I think it’s a really good package deal because you get not only camping, but you get to use other facilities as part of it. My daughter really looks forward to it.”

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