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Tuesday, May 28th, 2024

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

Youth Outdoor Activity Day in Minnesota draws thousands to Alexandria Shooting Park

Kyler Johnson, a 3-year-old from Miltona, Minn., is all smiles as he tries out a hunting saddle for the first time during the 2023 Youth Outdoor Activity Day in Alexandria on Aug. 27. Volunteer Sam Schmid helps him out. (Photo by Eric Morken)

Alexandria, Minn. — The annual Youth Outdoor Activity Day in Alexandria has become a model for how to host a one-day event that focuses on introducing and keeping kids active in the outdoors. Sunday’s event was another example of that. 

This year’s youth day at the Alexandria Shooting Park featured ideal weather conditions and drew 4,643 people, including an estimated 2,785 kids. The six-hour, completely-free event hosted by Douglas County Pheasants Forever and the Alexandria Viking Sportsmen Club provided participants with more than 50 outdoor-related activities for kids.

Gus Folkestad, a 4-year-old from Miltona, tries out a hunting saddle for the first time at the 2023 Youth Outdoor Activity Day at the Alexandria Shooting Park in west-central Minnesota. The youth day is an all-free event that draws thousands of kids and their families. (Photo by Eric Morken)

“We had good numbers overall, and kids really were at all of the activities,” said Dean Krebs, one of the event organizers. “They weren’t just flocked to a few of them. That’s kind of a tribute to the fact that the activity providers really had good activities that kids wanted to do.”

The activities run the gamut from many hunting- and fishing-related stations to ATV rides, shelter building, snowshoeing, gardening, geocaching, a climbing tower, and much more.

“That’s key. You got to have a variety, because we don’t know what’s going to strike a kid’s interest,” Krebs said. “It might be mountain biking now, but in three years from now it could be archery. The big thing is we just need to get kids out enjoying the outdoors, and then they’ll naturally find the activities they like and want to continue on with.”

Hundreds of people and businesses donate time and money to make this event possible – testament to the saying, “many hands make light work.” Sponsors help keep the event entirely free of charge for families, and individuals and outdoor and conservation groups from all over host the events in which kids partake. 

Families walk the grounds of the Alexandria Shooting Park during the 2023 Youth Outdoor Activity Day on Aug. 27. (Photo by Eric Morken)

“That’s the model. That’s why we run it that way, because if you tried to set up 50 events, no way could one group, two groups, or even 10 groups do it,” Krebs said. “The Viking Sportsmen and Douglas County PF, they’re busy doing the logistics – the lunch and the registration, which allows the other groups to not worry about that at all. They can focus on what they’re good at.”

A young archer gets some help shooting a bow during the 2023 Youth Outdoor Activity Day in Alexandria. (Contributed photo)

Organizers of the youth day are focused on introducing kids and their families to the outdoors, but also in doing what they can to keep them outside. One family left the shooting park at the end of the day with two bows and other prizes in hand.

“We definitely can’t complain about what we’re bringing home,” the father said with a laugh.

Every kid should have something to bring with them from youth day, with Krebs saying that each child averages more than two prizes that he or she brings home to help them stay involved in some sort of outdoor activity.

Families continue to show up and show an appreciation for this big event. They can mark the final Sunday in August on their calendars as long as volunteer support remains.

“We’re planning on doing it next year,” Krebs said. “It all depends on if we have volunteers. We need the support, and if we don’t have the volunteers then it could fall apart, but as of right now, people are still excited about it.”

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