By Heather Regula, Correspondent
The rains stayed away as hundreds of people descended on Yettie Polk Park for the 10th Annual Belton Kiwanis Turtle Festival on Saturday, April 29. Live music, a mechanical bull, hover ball archery, pictures with Michelangelo, a bounce house and activities at each of the over 60 booths led to an abundance of entertainment for festival-goers. Excitement and laughter were in the air, as spectators and turtle enthusiasts lined the perimeter of the basketball court to cheer on the turtles during The Fast and Furious live turtle race. The day’s festivities were concluded by The Ultimate Turtle Race, which consisted of 1,000 rubber turtles racing down Nolan Creek. A rubber turtle could be adopted for $5 for a chance to win a prize and the grand prize went to the first rubber turtle to cross the finish line.
Volunteering is a family affair for Deanna and six-year-old Austin Lovesmith.
“This is Austin’s third year working the Turtle Fest. He is helping sell tee-shirts today. Kiwanis does a phenomenal job of supporting our students in BISD. They were our Community Partner of the Year,” said Lovesmith, BISD Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction.
LeAnn Neamy, of Briggs, brought her Down on the Farm Inc. traveling petting zoo to the Turtle Festival. Pony rides were available for $5 and children enjoyed hand feeding the animals. “I have about 12 animals here today – goats, donkeys, ponies and miniature horses. I really like coming out here and seeing the kids happy. So many children these days don’t get to experience being around animals like this,” said Neamy.
Seventeen-year-old senior Destine Winkler of the Belton High School Key Club was helping monitor the petting zoo while another volunteer was taking a break.
“We have about 5-10 Key Club members here today. Our job is to help make sure the bounce house and petting zoo are safe and that everyone is having a good time. I really enjoy this event and I am happy to be a part of it,” said Winkler.
A popular booth was manned by Friend of the Library. “Each child can come and get a free book. We do this twice a year – once at the Turtle Fest and again at the Christmas on the Chisholm Trail event,” said Friends of the Library volunteer Melinda Guthrie. “We raise funds throughout the year to purchase these books and we are always happy to be able to give them away to children.”
Food trucks and family vendors provided refreshments Saturday.
“I’ve been in business for 15 years and this is the second year I’ve cooked and sold food at the Turtle Festival. We have turkey legs, roasted corn, and sausage on a stick available. I’m doing double duty here today as I also have a set-up over in Temple at the Bloomin Fest. This is a really busy day for us,” said Melvin Lowe, owner of Lowe’s Legs.
Officer Torres, a two-year-veteran with Belton PD, talked with people at the police department’s static display of a newer and an older police vehicle.
“This is a great way to get out and meet the community. Events like this help us build a good relationship with the citizens of Belton,” said Torres. Small children enjoyed riding the barrel train provided by Belton PD CHIPS volunteers.
Jessie Oestreich and Joseph Vasquez talked with community members passing by the Camp Gladiator booth.
“This is our first year coming to Turtle Fest and we are trying to share fitness with as many people as possible. Camp Gladiator is outdoor adult fitness for all ages and all fitness levels,” said Oestreich.
Anne Hill, Independent Beauty Consultant with Mary Kay, shared her booth with a Mary Kay teammate who was also displaying Doterra Oils. “Our goal today is to meet new people and to network. We are giving away two skincare sets and a fragrance. Today has been really successful,” said Hill.
The Turtle Festival is an annual event highly anticipated by many.
“We work with Kiwanis and waive the fees for reserving the park. Turtle Fest is a long standing tradition and it is very important to our community. Our big job here is support – we make sure the park is cleaned up and ready to go – grass is cut, outlets working and so on. Our booth here today allows us the opportunity to interact with folks who come by. We are able to tell them all that Parks and Rec has going on,” said Matt Bates, Director of Parks and Recreation. Children participated in a football toss at the Parks and Rec booth.
Taryn Mackey enjoyed Saturday’s festivities along with her four-year-old son Logan and six-year-old daughter Bracey.
“We try to come here every year. We love all of it – the food, the creek, the entertainment – it’s great for the whole family,” said Mackey.
Monies raised from this year’s Turtle Festival will go towards Kiwanis programs.
“We have student leadership programs, from elementary through college age. We do Citizenship awards in elementary & middle school and high school scholarships. We are involved in promoting our children,” said Harriet Harper Brodie, a Kiwanis club member.
Saturday’s Turtle Festival brought together families and friends and next year’s event is sure to amaze even more!