Turtle Fest: One shell of a time

THE BELLS — And they’re off.


Green Lightning takes a quick lead but Hard Shell is right on his heels. It’s neck-and-neck. Neither of these racers is giving one inch to the other.

At the festival, children were able to pet this turtle, "The Veteran." Jordan Yarbrough/The Bells

At the festival, children were able to pet this turtle, “The Veteran.” Jordan Yarbrough/The Bells


But wait. Out of nowhere here comes Franklin to take the lead. Oh my goodness he came out of nowhere. Can he win? Yes. It’s Franklin with the win.
Chances are most people have been participants and onlookers at some form of a race. But have they ever seen a turtle race? Those lucky enough to have attended the 7th annual Belton Kiwanis Club Turtle Festival April 26 can answer this question with an enlightened nod of confirmation.
Steven Kirkpatrick has coordinated the event for five years in a row, so he’s had the chance to see this fundraiser grow into the large-scale community gathering it is today.
“We have taken a simple fundraiser that merely started out with a duck race and fun day in the park for kids just over seven years ago,” he said. “And in addition to its fundraising component, it has transformed into a complete community resource event during the planning stages of the festival’s third year.”
Kirkpatrick said the funds raised go directly toward supporting the “ongoing Service Leadership Programs, the Kiwanis Citizenship Award, hands-on projects and other community organizations in the area that support children.”
The event was held at Yettie Polk Park. Organizations from around the Belton area participated by hosting stations that had activities for the children.
Helping Hands was one of these organizations. The UMHB chapter of Gamma Beta Phi teamed up with Helping Hands to run a coloring station at the festival. GBP is a national academic honor society.
“Our club is all about community service,” chapter president Brooke Cabelo said. “As Gamma Beta Phi, we want to help the community as part of our mission. The Turtle Fest was a great way to get involved with the community and show them that we want to help.”
Kaitlyn Zettler is a GBP member and was also volunteering on behalf of the group at the event. She said all the children at the event had a good time.
“I thought the festival was a really good family event,” Zettler said. “The kids really seemed to enjoy it.”
In addition to the actual turtles racing, 2,000 rubber turtles were released into Nolan Creek. Each was numbered, and adults could “adopt” a racer by purchase. The owner of the first turtle trapped at the end of the race won $1,000 in certificates. This event, the Ultimate Turtle Race, served as the main fundraising activity of the day.


Adopted rubber turtles were released into Nolan Creek. Courtesy photo.

Adopted rubber turtles were released into Nolan Creek. Courtesy photo.

The festival had other activities from pony rides to mechanical bull rides, bounce houses and more. Kirkpatrick estimated that the attraction brought between 6,000 and 8,000 people last year, and this year was just as much of a success.

Author: Seth Stephens

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