When Kim Towne watched a segment on NBC's "Today Show" last year highlighting the Great American Backyard Camp Out, she thought it would be a perfect event for the city of Suwanee.
"I envisioned it would be a great thing for Suwanee to participate in since we're so outdoor and family oriented," she said.
The Great American Backyard Campout is an annual initiative, now in its sixth year, in which the National Wildlife Federation encourages families nationwide to spend a night under the stars getting up close with nature.
After Towne brought the idea to city events coordinator Amy Doherty, planning for Suwanee's first-ever Great American Camp Out at Sims Lake Park got under way.
Families are invited to spend Saturday night camping out at the 62-acre park, where events and activities are planned for Saturday evening.
Towne plans to camp out with her husband, Chris, her 7-year-old son, Jack, her 4-year-old daughter, Lena, and five nieces.
"We're looking forward to camping with some close neighbors," she said. Campers should bring tents, sleeping bags, food and drinks, lanterns, flashlights, bug spray and any other necessary supplies. Flashlights are especially recommended as a flashlight scavenger hunt is planned.
"It's a good introduction to overnight camping for young children and families who might be intimidated by camping," Towne said. "It's close by and it's just for one night. It's not roughing it too much."
About 80 campsites are available inside Sims Lake Park with about half already reserved for the event. Each 10-by-20 site is $25, with proceeds going to support the Suwanee SculpTour public arts initiative. Families can register to participate by calling Doherty at 770-945-8996, ext. 3387, before 5 p.m. today.
"It's a unique way to be able to get an up close view of our park and it's something that you would not be able to do otherwise," Doherty said. "We like to offer unique opportunities for people to enjoy the park."