Youth Outdoor Festival
Minot’s Youth Outdoor Festival has variety of activities for young enthusiasts
The crisp sound of a duck call, the soft pop-pop-pop of a BB gun, and spontaneous shouts of joy could be heard throughout the evening. There were smiles and hot dogs and parents sharing quality time with children too.
Quite an event. Quite a night. The 14th annual Youth Outdoor Festival was held at the Conservation and Skills Park at Minot’s State Fairgrounds Sept. 2.
“Everyone’s going for the same mission, the same goal,” said Greg Gullickson, North Dakota Game and Fish Department outreach biologist. “All these volunteers, and volunteer organizations, all trying to get more youth and more people in general involved in the outdoors.”
The West Dakota Waterfowlers, Minot’s Delta Waterfowl chapter, made a first impression on those entering the Conservation and Skills Park with ground blinds and Canada goose decoys lining the walkway past the pond area at the Fairgrounds.
Several volunteers were assisting at the club’s version of cornhole – ditching beanbags in favor of rubber ducks. Youngsters who tossed a “ducky” were rewarded with a complimentary duck call, the calls of which could be heard throughout the duration of the Thursday evening event.
“This Youth Festival is one of our favorite activities,” said Kalvin Larson, West Dakota Waterfowlers. “It gets a lot of kids in the community involved and familiarized with stuff that’s outdoor related. Kids can look and touch and get interested in the outdoors. Some kids might not have really experienced the outdoors up until this point.”
It was a special night for the Delta group too. The club donated an enclosed trailer to Prairie Grit, a wonderful example that symbolized what the evening was all about.
“Last year we took a Prairie Grit athlete that was wheel-chair bound on a youth hunt,” said Larson. “We had to borrow a tracked chair from Game and Fish. After that Prairie Grit secured a tracked chair for their athletes. We felt they could put the enclosed trailer to good use for hauling the chair and get more Prairie Grit athletes exposed to the outdoors.”
Like several other sportsmen’s organizations participating, the West Dakota Waterfowlers have a lengthy history with the Youth Outdoor Festival and youth hunts. Some youngsters have never forgotten the experience that started by attending the festival.
“Some are now adults that have become very active with some of the local wildlife clubs,” said Gullickson. “Someone gave them an opportunity and they want to pass it along to others. Three board members of Delta were actually on youth hunts.”
A familiar face at the festival has been Percy Ottmar of the Souris River Basin Longbeards, a chapter of the Wild Turkey Federation.
“It’s all the sportsmen in the area getting together to kind of highlight their programs and show people what’s going on,” explained Ottmar. “It’s our way of inviting the community out, showing them what we do, and maybe pick up a member or two.”
A few feet away a member of Pheasants for the Future used a long tongs to place a freshly grilled hot dog into a bun. A youngster grabbed a ketchup bottle, a napkin, and a bag of chips. Ottmar couldn’t help but smile.
“That’s the biggest thing. It’s all for the kids,” laughed Ottmer. “Free hot dogs and chips. That’s always a winner!”
The Souris Valley Bowmen were there, along with a steady stream of youngsters anxious to get a bow in their hands and loose an arrow. Members of the SVB showed them a few fundamentals and let them give it a try. For some of the youngsters, archery will become a life-long sport.
“I’m not doing cross-county or football anymore, but I’m still shooting archery,” laughed Gullickson, noting the popularity of shooting sports such as high school trapshooting and the National Archery in the Schools program.
A “must stop” for many was a chance to shoot a BB gun or pellet rifle under the careful assistance of volunteer instructors. Young girls and boys were all business when looking through the sites at a target a few yards downrange. It was an opportunity just too inviting to pass up.
“We just wanted to come down and check it out,” said Justin McNichols, Minot. “Kids love the outdoors so this is a good activity to get out.”
McNichols was assisting his son, A.C., at the BB gun range. Looking on with great interest was his daughter, who will soon be in the field for the upcoming youth deer season.
“It’s great to have the kids come out and find out about different kinds of wildlife, shooting events, maybe catch a fish and have a good time,” said D. J. Randolph, Velva Wildlife Club.
The Velva Wildlife Club was handing out orange backpacks and outdoor related stickers to youngsters. Adults accompanying youth often inquired about the Velva wildlife group.
“Things are going really well at the club,” said Randolph. “We’ve got rifle and shotgun and archery and, hopefully, putting in a fishing pond this fall.”
Among the 11 organizations participating in this year’s Youth Outdoor Festival was a couple of newcomers.
“I actually invited two local outdoors camps, Camp of the Cross and Triangle Y Camp,” said Gullickson. “Those are camps many kids around the region enjoy, summer camp in the outdoors where they learn about safety on the water, swimming, kayaking, and archery. They use the same equipment as the Archery in the Schools program.”
Youth Outdoor Festival lineup
West Dakota Waterfowlers
ND Fur Hunters and Trappers Association
Velva Wildlife Club
Souris River Basin Longbeards
Pheasants for the Future
Berthold Sportsmen’s Club
Souris Valley Bowmen
Triangle Y Camp
Camp of the Cross