When putting up a tent, Greenbrook’s Mariah Cohen and her son, Drake, have a system.
Drake Cohen, who is 13, puts the poles in a certain order before his mom comes behind him, connecting them together.
But even a good system can go wrong at times.
“Sometimes you have to take breaks and timeouts,” Mariah Cohen said with a laugh. “You’re careful you don’t say anything you don’t want your children repeating.”
Together, though, they find what they consider to be the perfect spot during Lakewood Ranch Community Activities’ annual Community Campout at Greenbrook Adventure Park.
Drake Cohen drives the stakes into the ground, securing the tent. Then, he’s responsible for inflating the mattresses inside the tent.
"I don’t think we can ever get another tent because I’ve finally learned how to put this one up, and if we get a new one, I’m done,” Mariah Cohen said.
The Community Campout has become a family tradition for the Cohens, including dad Tom Cohen. They’ve participated in each of the past three campouts, and they’re always excited to snatch their spot as soon as registration for the event opens.
“It’s just a fun, cool, different event,” Mariah Cohen said. “Instead of it being a block party or an evening on Main Street or anything like that, you’re sleeping over in a tent that’s not in the middle of the woods somewhere. It’s fun.”
Aliye Presley, the marketing and events manager for Lakewood Ranch Community Activities, said this year’s Community Campout is the biggest campout since it began five years ago.
She said the 50 original spots for the campout sold out within 10 days, and to meet demand, Lakewood Ranch Community Activities opened 30 more spots.
“It’s hectic when everyone gets there because their anxious to get set up and get to the activities, and their kids want to run and play,” Presley said. “It’s like we’re in our own little bubble for the night, and it’s so much fun.”
As families arrive, Presley said the Lakewood Ranch Community Activities staff and volunteers will be available to help them settle in, and that includes helping them to put together their tents.
“We do try to go around and help people out where we can,” she said. “My recommendation is to get a pop-up tent.”
The campout will include a viewing of the movie Disney Pixar’s “Inside Out,” a nature walk, a campfire, and food provided by Dee’s Diner, a food truck that offers burgers, nachos, hot dogs, Philly cheesesteaks and more.
Presley loves to see families gathered around the campfire, roasting s’mores.
“People always make friends, talking and sharing stories, getting to know each other,” she said.
Mariah Cohen said the campout provides a different kind of family bonding experience.
Drake Cohen said he and his dad will usually throw a football around before the family sees what options they have at the various food trucks. They’ll bring their bikes with them so they can go for a ride as well. The night ends with a movie.
“You’re unplugged a little,” Mariah Cohen said. “It’s different than being at home together. You have to set up the tent and blow up mattresses, deal with things you don’t have to deal with normally. It’s a different way to find things in your relationship, like putting up a tent. It teaches you a lot about yourself and how to have patience.”
As much fun as Drake Cohen has throughout the night at the Community Campout, his favorite part always comes the morning after.
After spending the night in a tent wrapped in blankets, Drake Cohen and his parents take a break from the cold to head to Wawa for a warm breakfast.
“That’s the best part for sure,” Drake Cohen said. “It’s usually freezing at night. You wake up and get in the car with the heat on and have a nice, warm breakfast. It’s a nice way to wake up.”