Newton, NC – July is National Parks and Recreation Month. With many traditional summertime events canceled or altered this year, the Newton Parks and Recreation Department is encouraging families across the community to celebrate the outdoors in a safe and socially distanced way: through camping.

The first Newton Parks and Recreation Backyard Campout runs the weekend of July 24-25, and everyone is invited to participate by taking part in outdoor living at its finest. The Great American Backyard Campout—a program organized by the National Wildlife Federation—is a celebration of camping as a way to connect with nature and wildlife. The benefits of outdoor play for mind, body, and spirit are well-documented and create a lasting connection to nature and wildlife that help promote happiness and good health. The mantra for this year’s National Parks and Recreation Month is “We are Parks and Recreation.”

Families don’t necessarily need camping gear or even a backyard to participate. If you have a swing set, a trampoline, or a plastic pool that’s empty, you can make a tent. For those without backyards, a living room can be fashioned into a campground. Social distancing is encouraged while still having fun with your family.

Families can register by calling the Parks and Recreation Department at 828-695-4317 before July 22. Participants are encouraged to post photos and videos of their camping experiences to Facebook and/or Twitter with the hashtag #newtonrecbackyardcampout.

Following a drawing after the Backyard Campout, gift packets will be delivered to participating families for the most creative campsite, the most unique campsite, the most original campfire sing-along, and the best campfire recipes. Winners’ photos will be collected and shared by the City.

Newton Parks and Recreation is working with the N.C. Forestry Service Rangers and Smokey the Bear to provide campfire safety information to campers and will provide campers with packets of suggested activities and instructional how-to guides.

Every Wednesday leading up to the Backyard Campout, Facebook posts will offer participants preparation checklists with various activities for the family to enjoy. Topics may include a stargazing guide, a scavenger hunt, tips for cooking with tin foil, simple backyard recipes, how to build a faux fire, or how to make a tent or build a fort.

Downtown Newton businesses plan to organize meal deal packages for campers. Parks and Recreation staff hope the arrangement will bring extra traffic to local businesses affected by the pandemic.

For more information and to register, call the Newton Parks and Recreation Department at 828-695-4317.

Photo: Don’t have a tent but have a trampoline? Use it as a tent for the night!