Vintage campers and their adoring owners a are beginning to arrive at Three Rivers State Park this week for a holiday camp-in there and they’ve set a special open house event for the public on Saturday, Dec. 14, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The park is waiving its $3 entry fee for those hours, and for a few hours the night before so that the public can drive through and see the Christmas lights those campers are decorating their rigs with for the holiday. Admission will be waved 5-9 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 13, as well.

Park manager Philip Spyckaboer said his team will also be handing out free hot chocolate during the Dec. 14 open house event, setting up at the registration office located in the center of the campground occupied by the group.

Although the admission fee is waived, Spyckaboer said donations to the park would be welcome if visitors are feeling charitable. The money would go into the park’s Help Our State Parks (HOSP) account so that the dollars would stay here to help augment the local park’s budget.

There will also be a box set up at the registration building where people can donated canned goods or other nonperishable foods for local families in need.

The open house is free, and during it, visitors will be allowed to enter the campers and take a look around inside.

This has been an annual event for some time, says group member Jim Fredrick, although devastating Hurricane Michael damage at Three Rivers forced the holiday camp-in to be moved to another spot last year.

Fredrick said the group is glad to be back at this home-away-from-home this year. There won’t be as many as usual this year, he said, because the hurricane destroyed or significantly damaged almost half the camping rigs that usually make the trip. Those were located in Panama City at the time. He said about 17 will be here though, and that the club members hope the crowd will be as big as usual; in 2017, the last time it took place at Three Rivers, about 300 people attended the open house and a steady stream of vehicles were seen motoring through to see the Christmas lights the night before.

The park lost about 80 percent of its trees during the hurricane and work continues to clear the debris. A good portion of it has been hauled out so that natural regeneration can occur, and Spyckaboer said about three miles of walking trails have now been cleared. The park reopened in April after a major section was made ready for the public.

He said he and his staff, as well as some volunteers, are looking forward to the vintage camper group’s return this year and the opportunity to meet and greet the visitors that come to the open house.

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