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Annual Youth Outdoor Activity Day in Alexandria shatters previous record numbers for attendance

A total of 2,587 kids took part in the 50 outdoor-related activities offered on Sunday at the Alexandria Shooting Park as this all-free event continues to draw families from all around.

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Angela Sweetman of Alexandria holds up her 3-year-old daughter, Gemma, to look through a Zeiss spotting scope during the 2022 Youth Outdoor Activity Day at the Alexandria Shooting Park on Aug. 28, 2022. A total of 2,587 kids and 2,040 adults set record numbers for attendance at this year’s all-free event where kids could take part in 50 outdoor-related activities.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press
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ALEXANDRIA — Five-year-old Rosabella Olson had not quite ditched the training wheels on her bike at home before coming to the Youth Outdoor Activity Day in Alexandria on Aug. 28.

That left her with a decision to make. Rosabella and her family came upon the short mountain biking course that was one of the 50 outdoor-related activities that kids could try out at this all-free event, but there were no bikes with training wheels to ride.

“I only have training wheels on my bike, but I tried that,” Rosabella proudly said with a big smile after unbuckling her safety harness she used while climbing a ladder stand set up at the tree-stand safety station. “Probably the bike course (was my favorite).”

Rosabella and her 4-year-old sister, Gracelynn, were two of the 2,587 total kids who took part in the 6-hour Youth Outdoor Activity Day this year. That shattered the previous record number of kids to attend this event (2,212).

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Rosabella Olson, 5-years-old from Fargo, North Dakota climbs up a ladder stand with a safety harness on at the tree-stand safety station at the Youth Outdoor Activity Day on Aug. 28, 2022.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

This was the eighth year the youth day has been held, and with 2,040 adults and 342 volunteers who helped make this event possible, nearly 5,000 people packed the Alexandria Shooting Park. The event, always held the last Sunday in August, is hosted by Douglas County Pheasants Forever and the Alexandria Viking Sportsmen, but outdoor-related groups, individuals and businesses from all over host their own activities for kids to take part in and offer financial support to keep it free for families.

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“We were very happy with the turnout,” Youth Outdoor Activity Day organizer Dean Krebs said. “It’s no more work to have the additional kids, so having that many more kids turn out is icing on the cake. We’re thrilled to death that more kids got to experience the outdoors.”

Read more Northland Outdoors stories from the Echo Press

People come from a wide radius around Alexandria just to attend this event, and Rosabella and Gracelynn were a good example of that. Their mom and dad, Darwin and Kathy, made the near 110-mile trip from Fargo, North Dakota to be there.

“We had heard about some of the different events, and just the different experiences they can have,” Kathy said. “It seemed like there was pretty much anything the kids could try like mountain biking, so it was nice it was not just the hunting and fishing focus. It’s things they can do just recreationally and have fun with.”

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A group of mountain bikers try out the course set up at the Youth Outdoor Activity Day in Alexandria on Aug. 28, 2022.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

Gracelynn said her favorite activity was getting to hold the turtles and salamanders. At ages 4 and 5, the Olsons are not old enough to take part in some of the activities, but the variety of events for kids of all age levels was something the family appreciated.

“We don’t get out to hunt much, but we’re hoping to and this is a good way for them to figure out what they like,” Darwin said. “You get their feet wet before you buy anything equipment wise. They’re pretty young for most things right now. It’s just about trying different things and seeing what they like.”

Krebs said having a wide range of outdoor activities is the goal for the organizing committee every year as they look to grow the event.

The day itself is not necessarily about creating more hunters or anglers specifically. It’s about giving kids a foot in the door, letting them figure out what they may be excited about in the outdoors and then offering families information on how to stay connected to those activities.

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Ezra Barlage, 6-years-old from Long Prairie, holds up one of the bigger fish in the pool at the 2022 Youth Outdoor Activity Day in Alexandria on Aug. 28.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

“We don’t care where they enter into the outdoors realm, whether it’s hunting or fishing or biking or doing nature trails or something,” Krebs said. “Once we get them out in the outdoors, they’re going to naturally find what appeals to them and then go in their own direction.”

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Krebs said there were about 8-10 new events this year. Adding those additional options allows the kids more choices, and it also helps lessen the wait time in lines that can sometimes get long with so many people taking part.

In addition to the free ice cream and hot dogs, this year’s Youth Outdoor Activity Day featured activities centered around everything from trap shooting and multiple archery opportunities, to fishing, ATV riding, geocaching, camping, outdoor cooking, forestry fun, hen-house rolling and an eye spy with binoculars and spotting scopes on an elevated platform to search for items at long ranges.

The list goes on and on and continues to grow as organizers search for different activities to bring in. They do not always know how people will respond to some of the events, but the more options they provide, the more inviting the day is for everyone.

“A great example is snowshoeing,” Krebs said. “We added snowshoeing pretty late this summer and it was like, ‘Are kids going to really get into snowshoeing over a bunch of straw?’ We didn’t really know. It was popular all day. There was a line all day for kids to put on snowshoes, and they loved it.”

Krebs said organizers are already brainstorming additional events for next year’s Youth Outdoor Activity Day. People can set their calendars again for the last Sunday in August to get outside for this unique one-day event.

Eric Morken is a sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press Newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota, a property of the Forum News Service. Morken covers a variety of stories throughout the Douglas County area, as well as statewide outdoor issues.
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