By Nikki Velarde, The Belton Journal
Saturday marked the 8th Annual Belton Kiwanis Turtle Festival held at Yettie Polk Park. It was a day filled with fun for the kids and their families to come out and enjoy the activities provided by the Belton Kiwanis and other local non-profit organizations within the community.
The purpose of the Turtle Festival is to “positively impact children’s lives by partnering with community organizations, matching needs with communities, and fostering the development of key relationships,” according to the Kiwanis Turtle Festival website.
Throughout the day festival-goers were treated to live music by the Chisolm Trail Elementary School Choir as well as Joe Stento. They could also walk around and visit the various booths, learn about safety, meet sponsors, and learn about some of the local businesses in our area.
Kids were able to participate in various activities including two bounce houses sponsored by Grand Avenue Theater, a Petting Zoo sponsored by Scentsy and Belton Feed and Supply, Face Painting by the Downtown Belton Merchants Association, Barrel Train Rides provided by the City of Belton Police Department, Mechanical bull rides sponsored by First State Bank, Lowes Kids Workshop, pony rides, and a dunk tank.
At 1:30, children had the chance to race their turtles in The Real Live Turtle Race. Turtles were released on the basketball court as the crowd watched and the trainers cheered on their turtles. The first turtle to exit the basketball court was declared the winner.
“Popo” took home the prize at this years’ race. His trainer, 10 year old Arecelli Ball-Perez of Killeen excitedly accepted the $50 grand champion prize.
“I was on the sidewalk trying to get him to run, and he was running really fast,” Ball-Perez said. “He’s getting a special treat today.”
The K-Kids club was responsible for setting up the basketball court as well as getting the turtles registered for the live race. “This is their special project for the community,” said Pearl Fellingham, advisor to Belton’s two K-Kids clubs. “They try very hard to make their world a better place to live.”
At 3 pm, the Ultimate Turtle Race began where nearly 1,500 rubber turtles race down Nolan Creek. For $5 participants were able to adopt a turtle in hopes that theirs would be the first to cross the finish and win the grand prize of $1,000.
This event for the family typically draws in about 5,000 people, and it seemed like this years’ event was equally as successful. “Last year Turtlefest raised about $6,000,” said Harriet Brody, the Belton Kiwanis President.
The annual Kiwanis Turtle Festival has four main objectives, “to provide a spotlight for local and nearby non-profit community organizations who are aligned with the Kiwanis Club of Belton. To build and maintain Kiwanis recognition in the area for changing the community one child at a time. To provide a fun day of activities, parent-child educational opportunities and an atmosphere of positive reinforcement in the lives of children. Finally, to create an avenue for strengthening key relationships while simultaneously creating new partnerships between Belton Kiwanis and the community.”