For the first time, 4-year-old Allie Kogon was old enough to join her dad, Nathan Kogon, and older brother, Leo Kogon, in an overnight adventure last weekend.
Allie’s mom, Taly Kogon, wasn’t worried about her daughter because they weren’t camping out in the wilderness. Instead, her family was camping at a park just a few blocks away from home.
“Last year, my husband came with my son,” Taly Kogon said. “This year, my daughter is ready.”
Families from all over Miami-Dade County flocked to Doral on Friday, to join the city’s Camping Under the Stars event at J.C. Bermudez Park, 3000 NW 87th Ave., in partnership with the local Boy Scouts troop.
“[The event] started with the Boy Scouts,” said Frank Gamez, 20, an Eagle Scout who helped set up the bonfire for roasting marshmallows and the flag retirement ceremony.
Once a year, Boy Scouts troop 552 gathers all the flags that are left in a drop box at the Veteran’s Park, 10190 Northwest 33rd St, and prepares them for retirement.
All the flags are cut in a specific way before the event, except for the largest flag, which is clipped at the ceremony. The flags are burnt in pieces during the solemn ceremony by the scouts, veterans and members of law enforcement.
“We get so many flags, with the Southern Command here and people drop off flags from other countries. We don’t count them anymore, we just weigh them,” said Gamez, who estimates this year’s flags weigh about 250 pounds.
The Boy Scouts used the same bonfire for families to make s’mores before the ceremony, and even sold $5 s’mores kits at the event, as well as $6 tickets for breakfast the next morning. Next to their booth, the local Girl Scouts troop sold their famous cookies.
Earlier in the afternoon, families visited the park and let their kids play with snakes and other reptiles brought from Jungle Island, rock climb and watch the movie, The Box Trolls, on a giant screen at 8:30 p.m.
At the Jungle Island tent, Marcus Bichel, 7, held up a baby alligator and smiled while his sister Sabrina Bichel, 9, fashioned a snake around her neck.
Their dad, Alex Bichel, snapped pictures of them. Bichel, a teacher at Doral Academy, said he has brought his children to the camping event almost every year since he first found out about it through the school.
“My kids have been looking forward to this the whole week,” Bichel said. “You see people who are clearly not outdoors people, but they sing songs and have a great time.”
This year, the city also invited the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science staff to host hands-on activities for the kids during the afternoon.
“This is our ninth year hosting this event,” said Barbara Hernandez, director of the Doral Parks and Recreation department. “This year, there is an education component.”
Campers could also see the moon up close through two telescopes from the museum’s planetarium staff at night.
Families that chose to stay overnight had to register with the city parks department, to ensure each child would be accompanied by an adult over 21. About 150 families registered this year.
“It’s a wonderful event,” Doral Councilwoman Christi Fraga, who spoke along with Mayor Luigi Boria. “This is one of those events you look forward to the whole year.”