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Shell Factory kicks off Nature Park sleepovers
May 12, 2017

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It was a time to roast marshmallows, tell scary stories and listen to the sounds of nature just a few feet away from you.

More than a dozen people came to the Shell Factory and Nature Park this past weekend for the first "Snores and Roars" nature park overnight camp out, where kids of all ages learned about the animals, made arts and crafts, ate pizza and s'mores and much more.

Little did they know they would have to bundle up as an unexpected cold front sat over the area, producing weather more akin to February than the first weekend of May.

All the better, said Rick Tupper, marketing director and CFO of the Shell Factory, who stopped by to make sure the first sleepover was ready to go.

"This is wonderful. I expect a good crowd and I think it will be a fun evening," Tupper said. "I have a lot of interest in this coming up, so I think this will go really well."

Tupper got the idea for the sleepover from his native Michigan, where the Detroit Zoo was doing a similar promotion. Tupper decided to give it a go for May and possibly bring it back in October as rainy season winds down.

The Shell Factory promoted the event during its Easter and Taste of North Fort Myers events, and early results were promising as the visitors brought in their gear for a night of roughing it well, kind of.

The tents and cots were provided, as was the food and activities. The Nature Park even brought the animals, which made for an interesting evening as they screeched and roared all night, unaccustomed to having visitors at that hour.

Pam Plummer was in charge of the arts and crafts, which had the children put feathers on paper birds, learn the life cycle of animals and other enrichment activities. If they got bored, they could always play in the mini playground.

Jason Paszkiewicz, the nature park's keeper, took everyone around the park, once when it was still light out and the other in the dark when the animals really come to life.

"I'm pretty sure I'll stay awake all night. It should be fun. It will be interesting because we don't know how the animals will react," Paszkiewicz said. "Hopefully, they will sleep so we can sleep."

Heather Mazurkiewicz and her daughter, Mia, 10, took the time do some bonding at a place they go to regularly.

"It was a good time to have some mother and daughter time and do some camping. This was my time with her. It's going to be a great thing," Mazurkiewicz said. "The zoos and aquariums do this in the big cities, so it's great this is in our back yard, and the weather is perfect."

Al Giacalone brought his granddaughter, Charity. He learned about it when the Chamber of Commerce did its Taste event and thought it would be interesting.

"It gives us a chance to get behind the scenes at the Nature Park," Giacalone said. "It's going to be wonderful and there's going to be almost a full moon."

"I like to go camping. I used to be a Girl Scout, but not anymore. I went here for a field trip at Hancock Creek," Charity said. "I wonder if there are any alligators."

Everyone stayed up until late in the evening and woke up to a continental breakfast before leaving by 9 a.m. the next morning.

Tupper wants to open it up for local scout troops and birthday parties which he would like to offer every day of the week. He said he may do those at a discount.

There are openings every Saturday through the month of May. It's $49 for the evening with everything included. If interested, contact the Shell Factory at 995-2141 or visit www.shellfactory.com.

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