By Emily Metheny
INDIANAPOLIS – Hoosiers can learn how to use a crossbow, go off-road biking, find edible mushrooms and catch, cook and clean a fish – all in one day in one location.
This weekend marks the fifth year the state will host the Ford Hoosier Outdoor Experience, a free event aimed at giving Hoosiers the opportunity to try new sports, activities and hobbies and learn more about state parks and recreational areas.
The experience is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Fort Harrison State Park in Indianapolis.
“The idea is to get people involved in outdoor recreation,” said Marty Benson, a spokesman for the Department of Natural Resources, which sponsors the event with the Natural Resources Foundation.
The weekend is not about selling anything, Benson said. It’s about getting people interested in activities they might be unfamiliar with or want to try out.
That includes horseback riding, archery, disc golf, camping crafts, historical trivia, and much more. To see a full list of activities and organizations that are hosting them, check the DNR website at www.in.gov/dnr/5009.htm.
For the second year, artists from Traditional Arts Indiana will be on hand. The group’s director, Jon Kay, said the goal is to “show there are community traditions in Indiana.” Five or six artists will be on hand to teach visitors about those traditions, including drum making, limestone carvers and hoop net making.
Every person that is participating this weekend has a story, Kay said. The limestone carver cuts the stone himself while the drum maker collects his own logs. The hoop net maker and his son are the latest generation to make this specific type of net, Kay said. It is a tradition that has been passed down for more than 200 years.
The Hoosier Outdoor Experience is “such a wonderful event because it’s an encouraging event about getting people out of the cities,” Kay said.
Members of the Indianapolis Admirals – whose build and operate model boats – have been participating in the Hoosier Outdoor Experience since it began 5 years ago. The event gives the Admirals the opportunity to show people remote controlled boat building – and maybe tempt a few attendees into trying the hobby, said Dave Hampton, competition director of the Indianapolis Admirals. He said the Admirals station attracts a number of visitors every year, especially kids.
“We stopped counting how many people come,” he said. “We bring specific boats that we allow spectators to run.”
Typically, the organization has six or seven boats running at the same time. Spectators control the boats by remote control while members monitor which boats are running and how fast they are going. The boats that spectators use were built by the members of Indianapolis Admirals.
This year, the Admirals will only be at the event on Saturday.
“We roll out the welcome mat to the people in activities, but we roll out the red carpet to people who have never tried them before,” Benson said. The weather is supposed to be beautiful this weekend and the event is free, so there is no reason to not come out, he said.
Parking is available at the south lot of the Major General E.J. Bean Finance Center nearby and trolleys will be running people to the event grounds. A map showing the park with activities and parking is available on the DNR website as well.
Emily Metheny is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.