There is a blueprint for the success of the Youth Outdoor Activity Day in Douglas County that Alexandria’s Dean Krebs is confident will work any place in the country, and Krebs recently got the opportunity to share that model to a national audience.
Krebs was a guest on Randy Newberg’s Hunt Talk Podcast in an episode that went up on April 19. The episode is available through iTunes, Google Play and Stitcher or by going through www.randynewberg.com.
Newberg, a Minnesota native, is a popular outdoor voice for public-land hunting in America. He is the host of the Fresh Tracks and On Your Own Adventures TV shows.
“From a local level, it was an opportunity to recognize how successful we are and all the hard work that our volunteers have put in and what this event has become,” Krebs said of the message he wanted to get across on the podcast. “From a bigger picture, I hope somebody hears it and decides to do it. It gives them encouragement to actually put on an event like this.”
The Youth Outdoor Activity Day, hosted the last Sunday in August at the Alexandria Shooting Park each of the last six years, has grown to host more than 2,000 kids and their families for an all-free, six-hour day of outdoor fun. The 2018 event drew 2,212 kids, and last year’s activity day drew 2,105 kids despite rain putting a damper on things.
The youth day features more than 40 stations hosted by local conservation groups, individuals and businesses that run the gamut from shooting sports and fishing, to bike riding, ATV rides, rock climbing, rope making, fire and shelter building, orienteering and much more.
Krebs’ message through the podcast with Newberg was that it’s those many hands helping out, both financially and with volunteers that day, that allow for an event this big to run so well.
“The model we’ve got works so well,” Krebs said. “All of these organizations in our local communities step up and do their thing. That’s what’s been fantastic. Every one of the conservation organizations and businesses that are out there doing an activity are doing their own thing, so we don’t have to do that. Just seeing the support you get from all facets of the community has been awesome.”
Douglas County Pheasants Forever and the local Viking Sportsmen group organize the event, and while it does take some detailed planning, Krebs was adamant on the podcast that it’s not an overwhelming undertaking. His point was that others can host a similar style event.
The youth day comes together because so many volunteers are willing to help out on a day that revolves around not just introducing kids to the outdoors, but finding ways to keep them involved. Those who attend often leave with an arm full of supplies — duck calls, fishing poles, beginner bows or a BB gun — to eliminate barriers of getting them back outside.
Directing families to all the public-water accesses or fishing piers in the area, or getting kids involved in a future mentor hunt are examples of ways kids can come out of the day with more opportunities to participate in activities they enjoyed.
Krebs first became associated with Newberg through Newberg’s Hunt Talk Forum online.
“I wanted to get the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation involved (with Youth Day), and he’s on the board of directors,” Krebs said. “I reached out to him about that, and we ran his videos in our lunch room the first bunch of years.”
Krebs talked with Newberg at the National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic in Minneapolis this past February where the invitation for Krebs to be on his podcast came from Newberg.
Krebs is hoping to help out anyone interested in learning more about how to host a youth outdoor activity day in their own community. He said he has not heard from anyone across the country yet, but he’s hopeful he will once more conservation groups are able to meet again, with so many meetings halted right now due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year’s youth day in doubt?
Volunteers for the Youth Outdoor Activity Day in Alexandria are hoping to keep building on the momentum the event has gained, but the COVID-19 pandemic might alter those plans.
This year’s event is scheduled for Aug. 30 at the Alexandria Shooting Park. Krebs said the goal under normal circumstances this year was to prepare for hosting nearly 2,800 kids.
The pandemic has brought gatherings like that to a halt right now, and questions remain unanswered as to when large events might be acceptable again under safety guidelines. Krebs and others involved in organizing youth day are taking a wait-and-see approach.
“I’m pretty adamant about not making a decision right now,” Krebs said on April 23. “We don’t need to decide in April for our event at the end of August. We are going to wait as long as we possibly can before we would make any decision to cancel it this year.”
Krebs is hopeful that with more time, a youth day that has provided opportunity for so many kids over the years will still have a chance to do the same this summer.
“We’ll look at a lot of options too,” Krebs said. “If there was still social distancing in effect, is there a way we could do a more modified version of it? I don’t know that there is, but we will brainstorm and figure out what we need to do and make a decision at that time. We’re just not going to make a decision before we have to make a decision.”