MINNEOLA - There was something for everyone at Minneola's Trailhead Park, when the South Lake County community decided to send people to the beach.

Granted, there are no beaches in Minneola. But there was plenty of sand available just the same.

The city had chosen Armed Forces Day to throw a party. It just happened to be the first day of summer vacation for many students. So the city brought out the sand for its first Splash Bash summer party. There was even enough sand for a sand sculpting contest.

While the contest started at noon, the rest of the party started a few hours later. The sections of the outdoor event emphasizing the armed forces was at one end of the field, while a collection of water slides and the rest of the kids-oriented activities was at the other.

Being an outdoor event, nature played a role, too, with a butterfly encounter from Greathouse Butterfly Farm in Melrose dropping by to set up shop in a far corner of the party. The butterflies seemed to fit in with another, easily identifiable group flying the skies: love bugs.

In a reference to the current love-bug season, Dean Mester of the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory said that the bugs' favorite flavor was "plain."

Then there was the parade. Shortly after 2:30 p.m., a parade of decorated bicycles, scooters and wagons bridged the gap between the two faces of the festival, starting at the butterfly encounter, winding down the trail to the performance stage where the opening ceremonies had been held. Members of the local Marine Corps League led the parade and a pair of heavily loaded Minneola Fire-Rescue bicyclists brought up the rear.

An assortment of community-information booths and a few food and drink booths dotted the field.

The first event after the 2 p.m. Splash Bash opening ceremonies was a brief performance by Vocal Express, which is an a capella men's group. Its medley of all five military service songs set the flavor for what was the next intense activity at the festival - standing at the "We Support Our Troops" banner. A lot of folks attending the party took the time to stand by the banner looking for the names of friends and family and taking pictures once the names were found.

Cherly Tiefert of Grand Island in Lake County attended the bash and brought with her a picture of her son, Dylan Tiefert, who is a flight specialist in the Navy.

Looking at the banner, she noted, "I was so excited to see his name there. He's on the U.S.S. Kitty Hawk, off Japan ... That's a good place to be."

At 4 p.m., about midway through the Splash Bash schedule of events, the sand sculpture contest winner was announced. South Lake High student Lauren Polchies won two tickets to SeaWorld for her "Guitar Mountain" creation. The first-time sand castle builder says she was inspired by a friend who plays guitar.

"I don't play guitar," Polchies said, "but I think they're cool."

Minneola's Trailhead Park turned out to be an appropriate choice for an outdoor event/summer kickoff party. The park is a part of the Rails-to-Trails system, and this bikeway is popular with residents. It takes cyclists from Clermont, through Minneola and into Orange County.