Jeanine Bobenmoyer">

The great outdoors are calling

As I sit down to write this post tonight, there is a staff of hundreds preparing Fort Harrison State Park for the largest event it will see this year: the Ford Hoosier Outdoor Experience.

Hundreds making final arrangements, phoning volunteers, primping the park and crossing last-minute details off the list. I know this because I used to BE one of those hundreds.

It’s true: I used to work for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. I of girly-girl Momista descent and high-heeled wardrobe. And on my first few weeks on the job, I’ll admit I was extremely nervous. Since becoming a mom, my outdoor lifestyle had dissipated to occasional hikes in county parks {typically accompanied by a howling toddler} or sidewalk runs with the jogging stroller {i.e. miserable}. I expected the DNR to sniff out my imposter self immediately.

But what I discovered instead was a warm group of people so passionate about outdoor recreation, educating Hoosiers on the beautiful areas across Indiana and the very conservation of them, that any worries I had were replaced with a burning need to just learn more. I quickly fell in love as they guided me through the ropes. And it was programs like the Ford Hoosier Outdoor Experience where I really got to see the camaraderie of my co-workers at its fullest.

Here’s where you come in: If your family has been yearning for a little more outdoor activity but not knowing where to start, you’re blessed. The Ford Hoosier Outdoor Experience runs this weekend at Fort Harrison State Park.

What is it? The Experience is a 2-day interactive event designed to fully immerse visitors, families and volunteers in outdoor recreation. In fact – it’s the largest event of its kind in the Midwest.

What do I mean by interactive? It’s not you watching someone demonstrate a particular activity – you are put directly in the drivers seat. Want to learn how to mountain bike? You’ll be outfitted with a bicycle, helmet and guide, and taken on an easy path. Interested in learning how to identify native plants? You’ll be put directly in contact with the experts to help.

What will you find? More than 60 different family-friendly activities. There’s the ‘basic’ outdoor rec fun such as fishing, kayaking, archery and UTVs. Then there’s the unique like trapping, atlatl throw, geocaching and gold panning. Take a look here.

What’s the cost? How does FREE sound? {Food is available for purchase at a cost though so don’t leave the wallet entirely at home. You’re welcome to bring a cooler of food along with you though.}

The park is big, how will you get around? Busses will transport your family in to the Park from the various parking centers OR new this year is a walk-in entrance off Glenn Road. Trolleys are used inside the Park to take visitors from one venue to the next.

When’s the best time to arrive? I found that families would arrive Saturday, enjoy the day and then return Sunday to finish what they hadn’t done the day before. OR, they arrived first thing Sunday morning when the Park was still relatively quiet and enjoyed activities. Whichever you decide, keep in mind that it does get busy so patience is a good trait to also bring along with you.

What ages is it appropriate for? All. I repeat, all. Strollers and carriers welcome – keep in mind this is a State Park so normal sidewalks aren’t available throughout. And while dogs are welcome any other day of the year, the Experience isn’t the right event for them. Leave Rover at home.

Any other tips? Stop at the Welcome Center, grab a map and ask any questions. Your guides on the busses and trolleys are there to help too. Radio Disney will be on-site in the Family Fun Zone Sunday, 9/21 only.

So if I may make a kind – yet gentle – suggestion to your weekend agenda, it’s this: Let the routine go for a day. Pack up the car with the kids, and make the drive to Fort Harrison State Park. Who knows? Maybe you’ll discover archery is your thing. Or the kids really love fishing. Or you’re exceptionally talented at gold panning.

Whatever it is: The great outdoors are calling you. It’s a call our family will be taking, especially since Mommy doesn’t have to work this year. And I definitely won’t be wearing my high heels.

MORE INFORMATION: The Ford Hoosier Outdoor Experience will be held Saturday, 9/20 and Sunday 9/21 at Fort Harrison State Park. The Park is located at 5753 Glenn Road in Lawrence, IN. Parking is available at the Maj. Gen. EJ Bean Finance Center off 56th Street – follow the signs for exact location. Event runs from 10am-6pm each day, rain or shine so dress appropriately. More information may be found here: http://www.in.gov/dnr/5009.htm.

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