Organizers of the Youth Outdoor Activity Day in Alexandria are ready to see if this event can draw more record numbers for the sixth straight year.

Since its inception in 2014 when 542 kids registered, the one-day, all-free event has grown to include nearly 2,200 kids and 4,000 people at the 2018 event. The youth day is hosted by Douglas County Pheasants Forever and the Viking Sportsmen, but is made possible through volunteer hours and financial support from many organizations, businesses and individuals.

“The big change this year is we did a complete remodel of our website,” Dean Krebs of Douglas County PF and the Viking Sportsmen said. “That’s up and running and working very well. It allows us to do a lot more tracking. It’s also going to be a clearinghouse for youth outdoor activities in the area, so any area group can post their activity on our website. People can see what’s going on throughout the Alexandria area for kids to do.”

Parents can find that website at https://youthoutdooractivityday.org where they can register for the youth day, learn more about the activities offered and other outdoor activities there are to do throughout the area.

Kids who attend this year’s event on Aug. 25 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Alexandria Shooting Park will receive a free t-shirt and the entire family gets a free lunch and ice cream.

Each year, this event has been meant to get kids outside to enjoy almost any outdoor activity they could think of. This year’s lineup includes many that families have gotten used to over the years such as trap shooting and archery shooting.

Events run the gamut from other shooting sports like muzzleloading and BB guns, to campfire building, ATV rides, tomahawk throwing, rock climbing, orienteering and fly casting.

Brady Reed, 10-years-old of Browerville, braces himself for a kick while shooting a muzzleloader at the Alexandria Shooting Park during last year's Youth Outdoor Activity Day. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)
Brady Reed, 10-years-old of Browerville, braces himself for a kick while shooting a muzzleloader at the Alexandria Shooting Park during last year's Youth Outdoor Activity Day. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)

“We’ve got a couple activities that went away, and we’ve added some new ones,” Krebs said. “One of the ones I’m excited about is the Women Anglers of Minnesota is going to be there really targeting these adult onset type people. We’re doing a few things differently there, so it’s not 100 percent youth related. We’re trying to expand on it a little bit.”

As the youth day has evolved over the years, so too have the ways organizers are trying to reach kids and make sure this is more than just a one-day thing for those who attend. The end goal is that more kids find a passion in the outdoors that they pursue on a consistent basis.

Part of that is trying to get the parents more involved with activities throughout the day too. There are archery and trap shooting opportunities for the parents. The activity hosted by the Women Anglers of Minnesota will focus on beginning and advanced fishing tactics, and many of the activities overall are hands-on opportunities for adults to interact with their kids.

Tim Barton (left), a canoe trip guide through Piragis Northwoods Company in Ely, talks with 6-year-old Anthony Hansen of Alexandria during the 2018 youth day. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)
Tim Barton (left), a canoe trip guide through Piragis Northwoods Company in Ely, talks with 6-year-old Anthony Hansen of Alexandria during the 2018 youth day. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)

“What we don’t want to happen is that the kids get really excited about an activity and the parents aren’t involved, so it kind of dies on the vine,” Krebs said. “If we can get the parents involved, then the kids will follow.”

There will be a next-step booth at the event where those who attend can find information on how to further get involved in an activity.

“We debuted that booth last year. This year it’s going to be better,” Krebs said. “It’s got all kinds of materials for people to take that next step in the activity that they liked during our event. As they leave the event, they’ll be able to go through that and get some information on how to further their interest in that activity.”

With more than 40 activities for people to take part in, there are multiple opportunities for families to find something they like.

Krebs encourages anyone who is coming to ask a friend along this year, especially those who might not have many other chances to experience these kinds of activities outside.