Organizers continue to grow Outdoor Youth Expo
It’s the Outdoor Youth Expo.
As is “Exposure.”
Well, not really. But could just as well be.
The fourth annual Outdoor Youth Expo is scheduled from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. June 9 at the Lakeshore Conservation Club off County Road 77 in rural Lake Shore.
Family friendly events include Duck and goose calling, wood duck house-building, trap shooting, .22 shooting, blackpowder presentations, archery presentations, dog-training events, a fishing station, trapping presentations, DNR and youth programs, a police K-9 demonstration and a raffle and prizes — all under two 20-foot-by-40-foot tents.
And, as in past years, the idea is to expose kids to all the offerings: They don’t get those prizes unless they experience everything the expo has to offer.
“The kids get a punch card and they don’t get a prize until they complete all the stations,” said J.J. Levenske, a co-organizer of the event. “They might blow the goose call like a bazooka. But that’s OK. The incentive is to get them to all the stations, and they can do it on their own time.
“When they come in they get a goodie bag, which is just enough to keep them thinking, ‘cool.’ And at the end they get the real prizes, from a gun to binoculars ... It’s all random. And there’s a general raffle at the end.”
But, as most kids and their parents discover, the true prize is experiencing all the expo has to offer. And it’s not like the kids have to be force-fed .22, blackpowder and trap shooting and the like.
“Every year we’ve run out of ammo because they like rifles these days,” Levenske said of the kids. “And they want the puff of smoke (from the blackpowder presentation). It’s like fireworks.”
The wood duck house-building also has proven popular. Each child who builds a house gets to bring it home. And it’s not nearly as intimidating as it might sound. No real building skills are needed.
“It’s a combination of bluebird and wood duck houses. And it’s an assembly line. They just screw it together and nail it together,” Levenske said. “They’re prebuilt.”
The event is free for kids and adults/parents/mentors and food will be available for purchase. Parking is available across Highway 77 at Ski Gull. For more information, go to www.lakeshoregunclub.com or call Levenske at (218) 251-8826, Amy Odegard at (218) 820-9215 or Wayne Harting at (218) 831-2056.
Despite rainy conditions last year, attendance was about 150, Levenske said.
“Actually it’s met the exact need of trying to get ... kids off Xbox and Wii and some of the kids off the couch,” Levenske said. “And just seeing the caring and mentoring of the adults and the broad exposure to all things — (the kids) do everything.
“We have the right people (volunteers) in place. That warm and fuzzy feel helps the kids. Everything is one-on-one — everyone has a mentor working with them. And we only give them youth models (of guns and archery equipments).”
Participants aren’t the only ones taking notice of the expo’s success.
“Last year after it was done, people from St. Paul and the state asked if we wanted to take on the whole state and to make Brainerd a hub,” Levenske said of the expo. “The recruitment has been phenomenal. We started with 50 and are up to 200. And that’s just kids.”
BRIAN S. PETERSON, outdoors editor, may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5864. To follow him on Twitter, go to www.twitter.com/brian_speterson. For his blogs, go to www.brainerddispatch.com.