Icebreaker show helps connect children to the outdoors

Three-year-old Owen Resseguie, of New Berlin, swung the yellow-and-black claw hammer as hard as he could towards the tiny head of a small nail.

Below that nail, steadying it, were the fingers of an unpaid volunteer who was helping create his tenth consecutive bird house at the 2011 Icebreaker Sportsman Show at Christ Wesleyan Church near Milton.

Considering the long, long line of children and parents snaking out of the Sunday School classroom and into the hallway beyond, there were going to be many more bird houses created that afternoon.

On this particular swing, however, Owen hit his mark. The helper’s fingers were spared for the moment. A few feet away, another volunteer wasn’t so lucky.

Many people would consider helping waves of children build their own bird houses, and allowing each youngster to his or her own hammer in the process, a risky way to spend an afternoon. To others, it is extremely rewarding.

And, it is also one of the many reasons why I love attending the Icebreaker Sportsman Show each year. While other expos focus on the seasoned outdoorsmen and women, the Icebreaker does a great job of offering something for the whole family. In fact, there are just as many — if not more — activities for the children than there are for the adults.

While this type of formula may not work for bigger, more corporatized shows that primarily target the most serious of outdoor enthusiast — such as the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Expo in Harrisburg each February — the family-first feel of the Icebreaker seems an ideal fit.

It also highlights a critical aspect of the outdoors that many can overlook — the importance of getting young people excited about outdoor activities.

These days, a child’s world revolves more around SpongeBob than sparrows and PlayStation instead of playing outdoors. To kids nowadays, “Fish Hooks” is an animated Disney cartoon about talking fish, not those curved pointy things that can transform a lazy summer day by the local pond into a fish-catching adventure.

So it was refreshing to see so many young people running around the Icebreaker show on Saturday with big smiles on their faces. They were carrying bird houses and pinecone-peanut butter bird feeders with visions of bluebirds and cardinals dancing in their heads. They got to shoot bows and arrows at a 3-D deer target and balloons and BB guns at iron animal-shaped targets. Kids were fishing for trout, casting fishing rods for prizes and creating plaster casts of animal tracks.

For most of a day, these children were out of the house, away from the TV and video games and soaking in a variety of outdoor information, activities and fellowship with others.

In that vein alone, the show was a massive success.

And that doesn’t even include the numerous shooting competitions for adults, quality vendors, tasty and affordable food, the petting zoo, seminars, door prizes and opportunities to network with others who share a passion for the Valley’s outdoors.

Such as the numerous volunteers who made it all possible. Those who baited hooks, set up tables, served hot dogs, organized the activities and worked so hard behind the scenes. Those who patiently worked with each child on the shooting range and creating nature-friendly crafts. And, yes, even those who put their hands in harm’s way for what may seem like a simple bird house.

Because we, as outdoor enthusiasts, know that our outdoor treasures will soon be in the hands of the next generation — and it is hard to hold onto much when those hands have a death grip on an XBox controller.

~ by zaktansky on February 26, 2011.

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