Tents sprout on Gillson during second annual beach campout

A sandy beach, a lovely sunset, a blazing campfire, and marshmallows to toast on it; there’s not much that could improve on that scenario; except, perhaps for a juggling magician, some free live music from a nearby venue, and dozens of friendly neighbors in a temporary camping community.

Last weekend, 85 moms, dads and kids pitched their tents on Gillson Park beach for the second annual Gillson Beach Campout. They spent Saturday night on the beach, gathered around not one but four campfires dotting the sand, toasted their marshmallows and, after a few hours of sleep, got up with the sun, ending their mini-adventure with orange juice, cereal and coffee.

“We designed this so that people would have the chance to do something they’re not generally allowed to do – stay all night at the beach,” said Tim Amorella, the Wilmette Park District’s assistant lakefront manager.

The park district even provided the marshmallows, although Amorella said it was up to the campers to bring their own chocolate and crackers for S’mores.

The Aug. 2 event started before sundown, giving families the chance to pitch their tents while park district staff got the campfires ready. The magician kept youngsters enthralled with tricks and juggling skills, while music from a Wallace Bowl concert kept attendees bopping to ’80s and ’90s pop and rock, parks Communications Director Shelagh Donoghue said Monday.

The little tent village was active until about 10 p.m., when families started bedding down for the night, Amorella said.

“We had some lanterns and flashlights still lit after that. By midnight things were pretty quiet, but then the sun came up, starting around 5 o’clock the next morning, so folks were up pretty early to have their orange juice and coffee,” he said.

“We wanted people to have fun, and I think everybody did.”

GREAT OUTDOORS

WHAT: overnight family beach fun

WHERE: Gillson Beach Campout

WHEN: Aug. 2 and 3

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