The 13th annual Becoming an Outdoor Family weekend offers a chance to be introduced to the outdoors or to learn new skills for those who are already outdoor enthusiasts.
The June 4-6 event offers attendees the chance to learn a variety of skills ranging from shooting, fishing and camping to photography, cooking and nature writing.
In all, there are 53 separate workshops over a day and a half - 12 more workshops than last year -aimed at helping families become more confident with their outdoor skills.
"This is a weekend filled with exciting, educational adventures that introduce families to the fundamentals of camping and other outdoor recreation, with an emphasis on safety and fun," said Forests, Parks and Recreation Commissioner Jason Gibbs in a news release. "It's like a week of summer camp all rolled up into one exceptional family weekend."
Some workshops are already filled as the most popular events tend to always reach their quotas quickly.
But there is plenty of room and many more opportunities for those interested in expanding their outdoor knowledge.
With about 58 families already registered, a total of 290 people are signed up for the event. There is room for plenty more, said Lisa Muzzey, 4-H educator with the University of Vermont Extension. The Extension, along with Vermont State Parks and the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department are behind the weekend.
"We're looking for more families," Muzzey said. "At this point, people think we're full and stop calling."
The classes that are full have been identified on the registration website.
Many of the classes are offered multiple times over the three sessions and each person can sign up for three 21/2-hour classes Saturday and Sunday.
Expert instructors lead the classes and focus on teaching the basics in a safe, hands-on environment.
"This is a great opportunity for Vermont families to learn firsthand about Vermont's outdoor traditions from some of Vermont's finest outdoor professionals," Gibbs said.
There are classes on archery and shooting - shotgun, air pistol, muzzleloaders and .22 caliber, along with activities like fishing, canoeing, kayaking, mountain biking and camping skills - including camp cooking.
There are nature-based courses on geology, insects, amphibians, wetlands and a course on beavers, birds and bogs.
Artistic offerings include basketry, rustic furniture making, nature photography and nature writing.
Muzzey said the cooking, furniture making, shooting and hiking classes are always very popular.
After each of the previous 12 Becoming an Outdoor Family weekends, participants filled out a questionnaire that has helped organizers decide which classes to keep, which to get rid of, and other classes to add.
Muzzey said participants include some families who are already outdoor enthusiasts and are looking to learn new skills, while others are newcomers to the outdoors.
At last year's event, Muzzey said there were some parents with kids whose other parent had been deployed overseas.
"They brought three or four children and they were really pleased how everybody helped out with the little ones," Muzzey said.
She said she's impressed with how 70 or 80 families can merge into one big group for the weekend.
"I just love all the families gathering," she said. "Unless you experience it, it's hard to describe. We really become one giant family of over 300 people. It's amazing."
Kids 12 years of age and older can participate in classes without an adult, but youths 11 and younger must be accompanied by an adult throughout the weekend unless the class description specifies otherwise.
All events will be based out of Stillwater State Park in the 28,000-acre Groton State Forest.
"We do investigate quite a bit of the Groton State Forest," Muzzey said.
Participants can camp in the state park with its 62 tent and trailer spaces. There is a boat launch, beach and Forest Nature Center, along with hiking trails that lead from the campground.
The cost for the weekend is $165 per family, which covers the cost for camping, instruction, materials and equipment.
Register and pay online by visiting www.becominganoutdoorfamily.eventbrite.com.
For more information, including class lists, log on to www.uvm.edu/extension or 773-3349.
Contact Darren by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or through his website at www.DarrenMarcy.com.