2021 Note from the 5th Ranger Training Battalion: The annual Open House that typically takes place in the month of May will unfortunately be postponed to a date yet to be determined. When conditions are met, we look forward to welcoming back families and friends to Camp Frank Merrill!
Our family had the privilege of attending the 5th Ranger Battalion Open House at Camp Merrill in Dahlonega, GA. in 2019. The Ranger open house is a community outreach event open to the public where the soldiers of Camp Frank D. Merrill Army Base expertly demonstrate the skills and capabilities required to accomplish their mission. Visit the Ranger Open House Facebook page for updated event information.
There’s a lot to see and do at this free event. They really did a great job keeping kiddos in mind, and so much of it is geared toward the little people. Adults will be equally entertained.
Here are 5 tips you can use to maximize the fun at this awesome event.
Plan for a Full Day
There is so much to do at this event! There are numerous, live demonstrations at scheduled times, as well as multiple learning stations to interact with Rangers, and you can check out and use equipment. You’ll also want to stay for the live music! And if your kids are like ours, they’re going to want to do it all.
Plan accordingly! Backpacks are allowed. Stock it with extra water, sunscreen, phone chargers and external batteries, and your camera because there are photo opportunities just about everywhere you look.
This is a really popular event – and apparently increasing in popularity every year. So much so, that the organizers were a bit unprepared to deal with the volume. When we attended, the main event was set to kick off at 11AM, which is also when we arrived. We, along with a few hundred others, were diverted to a secondary parking area about two miles from the camp, and it took a couple of hours to bus us to the event itself.
This was entirely a parking issue – once at the open house there was more than ample room to move around and view everything, and the crowd wasn’t overwhelming in the least. But the parking was a bit of a snafu – they were caught off guard, which was completely understandable. Don’t let this deter you though! The organizers assure us that they’ll be better prepared, with extra buses in the future to handle this. Even so, it wouldn’t hurt to try to arrive well before the scheduled start time.
In 2019, there was a small amount of parking within the camp itself – if you get there early enough you won’t need to take the bus at all. The county is asking that attendees not park on the street, which is illegal and contributed to the delays we experienced.
Create a Schedule
Did we mention that there’s a ton to see and do at the Ranger Open House? We recommend that you organize your day around the live demonstrations, some of which are repeated once or twice throughout the day. We really enjoyed the venomous snake and hand to hand combat demonstrations. You’ll have a couple of opportunities to attend these.
But the really big hit was the when the Blackhawk helicopter entered the scene. We got to see the Blackhawk in action in three separate combat scenarios, including air assault (rappelling) and a casualty extraction. The kids also enjoyed the HALO (High Altitude Low Opening ) demonstration. Here, we witnessed (up close!) five Ranger “skydivers” dropping in from out of nowhere and landing in a field right in front of us.
In between the live demos, check out some of the many learning stations on site. When we attended, these were all located down the road to the right, but set back a bit from the main event. Be sure to explore the area because we almost missed them.
Our boys got to pick up (or attempt to pick up) a 110-pound ruck sack, try on a ghillie suite while looking down the barrel of a sniper rifle, and zip line among other things. They’ll never look at Fortnite the same way!
The open house is a free event, but concessions are available — so bring extra cash! They also opened up the Post Exchange to visitors, so you can buy extra snacks and drinks there, as well as Ranger memorabilia (like shirts and hats).
The PX is located on the main road, right next to the guard station.
Make a Weekend of It
Those in the Atlanta metro and beyond should consider making this a weekend event. We did just that and stayed at the Forrest Hills Mountain Resort & Conference Center Friday and Saturday.
We hear that the Ranger Open House usually corresponds with the Bear on the Square Mountain Festival, another big spring event that takes place in downtown Dahlonega. We enjoyed a number of local musicians and artists, and sampled some great local food.
Speaking of local food – your next stop in Dahlonega will not be complete without a visit to our new favorite restaurant. Bratzeit is an unassuming German/Swiss restaurant a couple of blocks from the square that will completely blow you away. Don’t pass this one up!
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