VAN BUREN — The annual Christmas in July campout at Van Buren State Park will be held from 4 p.m. July 17 through 10 p.m. July 18.
The event will feature tractor-pulled hayrides, birds of prey demonstrations, movies, a potluck meal, Polar Express train rides, and a campsite decorating contest.
On July 17, hayrides will be available from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. A birds of prey presentation, featuring a bald eagle, will be held at 7:30 p.m. at the amphitheater, and a moonlight movie will be shown at 9 p.m. Popcorn and refreshments will be available for a donation. Participants may bring a lawn chair and blankets.
On July 18, Christmas crafts will be made from 10 a.m. to noon at the amphitheater. From 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., games will be available including cornhole, ladder jacks, badminton and volleyball.
From 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., the “Polar Express” will be offering rides, and at 6 p.m. at the amphitheater, a camper potluck dinner and soup judging will be held. Participants should bring a dish to share. They may fix a pot of soup for a chance to win a free night of camping at a state park.
Also July 18, campers may participate in the park’s third annual campsite decorating contest. Judging will be at 8 p.m. The winner will receive a certificate for a night of camping at a state park.
A moonlight movie will be held at 9 p.m.
Campsite reservations for the event can be made through Mary Jane Thurston State Park, 419-832-7662, which oversees Van Buren State Park operations.
Later in the year, the annual hobo stew and Halloween campout will be held Oct. 9-10 at the state park.
Among the activities will be hayrides, a campsite decorating contest, pumpkin crafts, a Halloween parade, silent auction, spooky train rides, and hobo stew, with campers and visitors providing items.
For more information about either event, call Mary Jane Thurston State Park.
A disc golf course, an upgraded campground, and miles of trails are available throughout the Van Buren park.
The park has an 18-hole disc golf course that begins at the park’s west end. Course materials were purchased with donations from organizations and businesses.
The campground has both electric and non-electric campsites. The family campground has 28 campsites, 16 with electricity. An equestrian camp has 29 campsites, nine with electricity.
This summer, two rent-a-cabins will be available. Each cabin includes two bunk beds, refrigerator, microwave, air conditioning, ceiling fan, table/chairs, fire ring and picnic table.
Rental fee is $35 nightly.
A primitive group camp, located in the southeast part of the park, offers a camping area by reservation for up to 200 people.
To reserve cabins or campsites, call 1-866-OHIOPARKS (1-866-644-6727) or go online to www.dnr.state.oh.us. To reserve the group camp, or for campsite prices, contact Mary Jane Thurston State Park.
At Van Buren, there are three miles of mainly single-track mountain bike trails located in the south side woods, for both novice and intermediate riders, with views of the lake and woods.
The trails cross boardwalks over ravines and offer some challenging features.
The trailhead begins at the south side picnic area parking lot.
Follow the blue blaze-marked hiking trails that allow mountain bikes: Scarlet Haw Trail, 1.5 miles; Pine Glenn Loop Trail, half-mile; Lake Shore Trail, 3 miles; Bike Trail, 3 miles.
Four bridle trails that also allow hiking and mountain bikes are: Red Trail, 2.5 miles; Pink Trail, 4 miles; White Trail, 2 miles; Yellow Trail, 3 miles.
The park also offers a 2-mile interpretive nature trail, marked with purple arrows and blazes.
Twenty signs along the self-guided trail present information about nature in the area.
The park’s 45-acre lake allows rowboats, canoes and boats with electric motors. The lake has bullhead, crappie, bluegill and largemouth bass. Boat launch access is at the north parking area on Allen Township 229.
For general questions about Van Buren State Park, contact the Mary Jane Thurston State Park office.
Free movies are shown every Saturday night in the amphitheater at the family campground.
Popcorn, pop and root beer floats are available for a donation. Visitors should bring a lawn chair and a blanket.
There is not a naturalist on staff to conduct special programs at the park this summer.