Thursday, September 2, 2004

Great Outdoor Weekend mimics
'Sampler' success


More than 50 venues will take part

By Reid Forgrave
Enquirer staff writer

GREAT OUTDOOR WEEKEND

The Great Outdoor Weekend will be held Sept. 25 and 26 at dozens of outdoor and environmental education venues throughout the region. For a listing of events and a map of locations, visit the Web site. Brochures will be available at libraries in Hamilton and Clermont counties as well as at Kroger stores beginning next week.

UNION TWP. - Look at it as a free buffet of outdoor venues in Greater Cincinnati, a chance to sample a little of this, a snippet of that.

Organizers of the first Great Outdoor Weekend, to be held the final weekend in September, hope people will leave the event stuffed with experiences from the 50 free outdoor and environmental events.

"September is the best month for this because families are back from vacations and life isn't yet saturated with all the fall festival events," said Marihelen Bauer, one of the event's organizers and director of marketing for the Cincinnati Nature Center, the Union Township nonprofit that is leading the event. "We want to make it a sort of back-from-summer thing, a last chance to enjoy summer before winter comes."

The event caters to families and includes events as diverse as fishing at Burnet Woods, urban gardening in Avondale, making paper at Sharon Woods, canoeing and fly fishing in Loveland, studying bees at the California Woods Nature Preserve, animal tracking in Chilo and touring the arboretum in Union.

Organizers urge attendees to visit a part of town they don't live in to learn about the diverse outdoor offerings around the region.

It's a takeoff on the Fine Arts Sampler by the Fine Arts Fund, a weekend in February crammed with 150 events at art galleries, symphonies, ballet and theater. Bauer, who used to work for the Fine Arts Fund, isn't shy to admit it.

"Every February, people can go and get snippets of art for free," Bauer said. "So, with their permission, I ripped off their idea and put it toward nature."

Among the nonprofit organizations participating are the Imago Earth Center, a 16-acre nature preserve on the city's West Side; Raptor Inc., which rehabilitates injured birds of prey; and Oxbow Inc., which protects the wetlands area in a broad floodplain where the Great Miami River empties into the Ohio River in western Hamilton County.

"These are some groups that aren't very widely known around town," said Rhonda Barnes-Kloth, communications manager for the Cincinnati Nature Center and an organizer for the weekend. "Lots of the smaller nonprofits struggle to find new audiences and spread our messages. We thought if we could band together and pool our resources in one program, we could promote the environment in general and promote our individual organizations, too."

Participating venues will be putting on short samples of what they do so they can introduce themselves to people who might not have known about them.

"Everyone will be putting on their best show that weekend," Barnes-Kloth said. "The ultimate thing we want to do is get people outside and enjoying all that we have here."

E-mail rforgrave@enquirer.com



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