BELTON — Eight-year-old A.J. Latson squealed in delight after shooting out of one of the many water slides at Belton Lake Outdoor Recreational Area’s WaterFest on Sunday. His cousin, 6-year-old Jynasis Hasty, followed closely behind him.

“That water is hard — you get out of it and it’s like a rushing river,” A.J. said.

Enjoying what Fort Hood’s Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation calls “the official kickoff to summer,” thousands of people gathered at BLORA for the two-day event.

Families enjoyed a water balloon sling shot, several Slip ’N Slides, three inflatable water slides, two permanent water slides, a kayak pool and open beach swims.

Chuck Deveraux, a professional bass fisherman, stood by a 4,000-gallon tank full of fish to demonstrate different lure and rod techniques.

“They get to see the bait in the water and the fish bite, but there’s no hooks on the lines,” he said, explaining the different lures that go in the 40-foot long Bass Tub trailer.

Lisa Bass, outdoor recreation program coordinator for BLORA, said Saturday was the busier day of the two-day festival, but it still achieved it’s purpose — kicking off the summer and bringing awareness for the park.

For those who did not feel like getting wet, the 1st Cavalry Division Band performed and petting zoos and pony rides were available.

“Sometimes you see soldiers who have never rode a horse riding with the kids,” said Brenda Ramos, owner of Horsin’ Around at BLORA, a farm that houses horses and petting zoo animals. “They just look like the kids, smiling from ear to ear. It’s good to watch someone who fought for freedom feel like a kid again.”

Meanwhile, Pvt. Miguel Ordonez, of 3rd Cavalry Regiment, stood with his two young daughters while they waited for their turns to ride the ponies.

“We just got here two weeks ago. My daughter loves horses — we used to have 10 of them,” he said, smiling and holding his daughter Adnil’s hand as she peered at the animals.

Contact Courtney Griffin at cgriffin@kdhnews.com or 254-501-7559

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