It was quite an evening. Hammers were pounding and drills whirring. The soft pop of air guns and the snap of the bowstring could be heard too, all amidst the smiles of hundreds of children, parents and volunteers.
The event was "Project Habitat," hosted by the Bremer Outdoors Team at Minot's Maysa Arena. Suitably, the event was held outdoors and in near perfect weather. An estimated 250 area youth attended. They all had the opportunity to help build their own backyard bird feeder.
"They build it. They keep it and bring it home and have fun with their parents and our Bremer Outdoors Team members," said Brent Mattson, Bremer Bank president.
Aubrey Terrill, Minot, helps pound the final nails Kim Fundingsland/MDN
Bremer Outdoors Team volunteer Wayne Schoenberg, Minot, assists Teagen Kinchen, Minot, in the completion of a backyard bird feeder. The event was held at Maysa Arena in Minot.
The building of bird feeders marked the fourth such event hosted by the Bremer Outdoors Team. Previous projects included the building of bluebird houses and duck nesting houses. Plans are already underway for a featured project at next year's event.
Children and parents were lined up well before the 5:30 p.m. start time for "Project Habitat" this past Thursday. A few minutes later they were surrounding volunteers manning several tables and who would assist them in putting together bird feeders. The wood for the feeders had been pre-cut by members of the Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch.
"The main focus is getting kids involved in building habitat. Maybe it will rub off on them and in the future they'll want to get outdoors and do a little hunting and a little fishing," said Mattson. "We return the favor to the Boys and Girl's Ranch with a special event each year in the Turtle Mountains. We take them ice fishing at Lake Upsilon. They get some one-on-one time with Bremer Outdoors Team members."
Good volunteers are what makes events like "Project Habitat" possible. Among the many who were helping out this past Thursday was Wayne Schoenberg of Minot. He was pre-drilling holes in the boards used to construct the bird feeders so they wouldn't become split by nails.
"This is great. It is my fourth year as part of the Bremer team. We enjoy it. The kids enjoy it," said Schoenberg while closely watching his fingers as a youngster began the task of driving in a nail.
Nearby, at another construction station, Aubrey Terrill watched as her daughter, Brooklynn, wielded a hammer with the proper precision.
"It is a pretty awesome activity," said Terrill. "We are enjoying ourselves here in the sunshine. It is a nice day for the kids."
With bird feeder built and in hand, many of the youngsters took advantage of free hot dogs, pop and the chance to try their hand with the bow and arrow or air rifle. There were prize giveaways too and an Outdoors Team donation of $1,000 to youth programs at Village Family Services. An additional $1,000 was donated to Washington Elementary for having the most school members in attendance.
"We have to find activities for our area youth," stated Mattson. "The Bremer Outdoors Team focuses on hunting, fishing, birding or whatever. There's also exercise, with child obesity way up, it is great to get children outdoors or, quite frankly, to keep them active indoors."
With that latter thought in mind, Mattson presented a check for $50,000 dollars from Minot's Bremer Bank to the proposed expansion project at Maysa Arena. The project, if completed, would add a third sheet of ice to the well-used facility and greatly increase the amount of spectator seating.
"We made a special gift today, so there's a charitable aspect to Project Habitat," explained Mattson. "This does not include what the Otto Bremer Foundation will be looking at in the future. Maysa is a youth center. There is a lot of activities that we can apply all year round in Maysa Arena. There was actually a waiting list of about 40 kids to get into programs this past year."
One thing was obvious to all in attendance at "Project Habitat," kids were having fun and they were learning about outdoor activities, some of them for the first time. By that measure alone, the Bremer Outdoors Team volunteers were amply rewarded for their efforts.