Families sleep under the stars for the ‘Great American Camp Out’

Leo Apperson, left, watches as his father Jason helps Brian Melo hammer stakes into the ground beside the Apperson's tent. Ryan Mancini/The Signal

Families set up their tents at Central Park to be part of the 9th annual Great American Camp Out in Santa Clarita on Saturday and Sunday.

Tents belonging to 35 families formed a circle inside the park, with different games, such as cornhole and giant Jenga, available for children to play.

“Sleeping out at Central Park – you don’t get a chance to do that,” said Pat Downing, arts and events supervisor with the City of Santa Clarita. “You’re not allowed to spend a night at the park unless through special programs like this, so it’s kind of unique to sleep out under the stars at Central Park.”

Children decorated their own tye-dye shirts, took part in a tractor hay ride provided by Gilchrist Farms and also sang songs around the campfire. Dinner was provided by The Habit Burger Grill. Into the evening, a screening of “The Secret Life of Pets” was shown on an inflatable screen before bedtime. On Sunday, families woke up with the option to take part in a two-mile fun run, as well as a pancake breakfast.

“It was designed to be an introduction to camping, and yet we have some families say, ‘This is great. This is our eighth year,’ and they come every year,” Downing said.

Jason Apperson was one father who set up tents with his friends and brought along his 3-year-old son Leo.

“So he’s three and a half, and it’s finally time to take him camping,” Apperson said.

The park is convenient for them just in case there’s any emergencies and they need to go straight back home. Jason and Leo wore shirts that read, “Saturdays are for the boys,” a Father’s Day gift he received.

“We heard about (the Great American Camp Out) last year, I felt like he was still too young for me to brave this alone,” he said.

Leo looked forward to the activities going on into the night. Jason said this trip would be a precursor to future camping trips to Yosemite and Joshua Tree National Parks in the future.

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