Sometimes, it's best to go camping to meet the neighbors.
Many of those who pitched a tent Feb. 19-20 at the annual Lakewood Ranch Community Campout at Greenbrook Adventure Park said pitching a tent makes for the perfect setting to engage with other members of the community.
Inside a ring of tents, which lined the edges of a baseball field, parents and children chatted around the campfire, tossed Frisbees and played tag.
Lakewood Ranch's Kate Swinkels said her 8-year-old daughter, Emma, loved being outside while learning about the universe and nature with the event's telescope and nature walks. Emma Swinkel also loved watching the outdoor movie with her friends.
"It's a combination of camping and community," Kate Swinkels said. "It lets kids have fun in a safe environment, while we get to enjoy one of the key parts of Lakewood Ranch."
Jessica Clark said she loved networking with other parents and meeting kids from her neighborhood. She said the event provides a nice experience that her family doesn't get to enjoy while living in the suburbs.
“What we wanted to do was give our residents, who may have never had experience in traditional camping, a way to do it in a less committed environment," said Keith Pandeloglou, the executive director of Lakewood Ranch Community Activities. "Instead of literally being in the middle of the woods, it’s the friendly confines of a community park. Each year, this has grown a little bit.”