Not Just Another Day at the Park
By Art Graham, Colorado State Co-chair
April 28, 2012, started out as just another day at Riverbend Park in Palisade, Colorado—at least until about 7 a.m. when 41 different federal, state, county, local and non-governmental organizations all descended to set up for the 4th annual Outdoor Heritage Day.
Outdoor Heritage Day is a free event geared toward youth ages 2 to 16 and their families that introduces them to all the great opportunities the outdoors has to offer, and provides them with the information they need to pursue those activities on their own. The event offers many wonderful things to see and do, including fishing, archery, shooting, hunting simulator, rock climbing, nature hikes and more, and is staffed by an army of warm and inviting people to learn from and share with.
The day started off cool, but warmed up nicely. The RMEF crew, which included volunteers from the Grand Junction Chapter, set up our booth and then helped other groups set up as well. We were all ready to go when the attendees started filing in at 9 a.m.
Upon arrival, the guests were given a “passport” that was stamped at each of the partners' booths with a symbol or animal that represented the individual activities. RMEF’s was a bull elk, of course. Several of the kids weren’t content with just having their passport stamped—they also wanted stamps on their arms, hands and foreheads.
We had the RMEF/Midway Daisy Inflatable set up at our booth and it was a big hit! More than 600 kids of all ages came through in eight hours. RMEF staff filled out forms and volunteers taught the kids about gun safety and supervised as they shot BB guns at targets. Three other groups had shooting booths as well for everything from NERF guns to .22 caliber rifles. The long lines around all of these booths were evidence that kids want to learn how to shoot.
The fishing booths were another hit with the kids. Once a child completed all three fishing stations (casting, etiquette and aquatic biology), he or she was given a free fishing pole. If the kids brought their own poles, they were given free bait or a lure instead.
All told more than 1,200 kids and 700 adults attended the event from two counties and five school districts. We helped serve 1,800 hotdogs, 2,000 bags of chips and 45 gallons of lemonade and water during the day—a meal considered fine cuisine by the kids.
This was hardly a relaxing day at the park for the volunteers, but it was one that we will treasure, and with any luck, those kids will, too. We have until December to take a deep breath and relax before we begin thinking about how we can make Outdoor Heritage Day even better next year.