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Gray skies and the threat of rain did little to dampen the spirits of those attending the Outdoor Festival on Saturday, August 22. There were smiles all around, on the faces of the children and their families that turned out despite the threat of rain, for the ninth annual event that is held at the Farmville area fairgrounds.
The event is a celebration of the outdoors, and the activities and traditions that run so deep among the families that live in the Heart of Virginia. Hunting and fishing were the main themes of the event, but there were many other activities, such as pony rides for the children, and a bounce castle as well, a face painting booth and a bull roping exhibition for everyone to enjoy. Applause went up all around whenever a young person roped their practice “bull.” One of the busiest venues was the “rock wall.” There was a fair-sized line in front of it for most of the day; every young person waiting their turn to “harness up” and test their climbing skills. Without a doubt, however, the center attraction was the fishing pond. Young people, coached and coaxed by their parents, circled the sizable makeshift pond all day, each in their turn trying to land the catch of the day. Many did catch fish, and they weren’t run of the mill “throw back sized” bream. Several times the children reeled in two- or three-pound catfish; the surprise and pleasure on their young faces was impossible to ignore. It was hard to decide who was more excited, parent or child, when the fish were landed. After a hurried pose for pictures, the fish were released in hopes they would take the bait from other young fisherman. The fishing pond was made possible by the Virginia Conservation Police Association. The President of the organization, James Slaughter, spoke of the importance of events like the Outdoor Festival, “These special events, and others like it, bring kids to a positive place, and we want to be a part of that.” He went on to say; “They (the kids) see us in uniforms, you know, carrying all of our equipment most of the time when we are at work. Special events like the Outdoor Festival are important because they let the kids see that we are regular people and like to have fun, too. That is our mission, to let the public know that we are part of the community.” While the organization’s funding comes primarily from donations and membership dues, they continue to be a strong presence at local fundraisers and community events. The Virginia Conservation Police also had a booth set up right next to the fish pond, where a uniformed officer answered questions and gave advice and information on Virginia’s wildlife as well as hunting and fishing regulations for this year to whoever asked. Copies of the Virginia regulations were available to the public.
Some other groups in attendance included The Friends of the NRA and The Central Virginia Heroes on the water, a non-profit organization that sponsored and facilitated fishing trips for wounded veterans. A group out of Suffolk, Virginia, known as “Swamp Jumpers,” had a booth set up there as well. “Swamp Jumpers” is more than a group of guys that hunt together, more than any typical hunt club. These fellows have an outreach ministry program that uses the fellowship that hunting and fishing with others naturally offers to spread the Good Word. They offer to guide hunts for anyone that is interested. All of the details of their ministry are on their website: Swampjumpers.com.
The buildings on the grounds were full of vendors selling jewelry, leather goods, wildlife drawings and the like. Town and Country Hunt Club even raffled off a shotgun. In one corner, a virtual shooting range was set up for kids to test their target skills. A duck calling contest was scheduled in the Varner building, and right after a turkey calling contest. All through the grounds contestants practiced their calls preparing for the event. The winners were: duck calling first place winner was Jon Hart. Second place was taken by Jason Powell. The turkey calling contest was divided into two categories: a junior division and senior division. Jeremy Burns won the first place spot in the junior division and Tate Henderson took the second place spot. The first place senior division winner was Bucky Allen, with second and third places going to Guy Dominique and Jeff Johnson II respectively. The Big Buck winners by division this year were: Youth: Alex Liles, Archery: Cory Loveday, Gun: James Lewis, Historical : James Hall and, last but not least, the women’s division winner was Molly Ragland.
There was something for everyone at this year’s festival, from the great live music provided by bands like Fear One, Willkeshake, Willis River Bluegrass and Phloyd Eugene Turbo, to the shooting clays that went on in the lower parking lot, or the archery shooting range on the upper end of the grounds. There was plenty of good food to eat when it was time to just take a break from the fun and put together a makeshift picnic. All in all, it was an excellent way for families to get together and enjoy the day celebrating the great outdoors.
The Outdoor Festival in Farmville is sponsored by the Riverside Community Church of Farmville, along with corporate co-sponsors such as Awesome Party Supplies, Buggs Island Archery, The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Green Top Hunting and Fishing, and WFLO Radio.
The Outdoor Event is a tradition in Farmville. It has been nine years in the making, and the tenth year, if the last nine are any indication, promises to even bigger and better than the last. So mark your calendars, everyone, and make sure the day is free. The next event is just under a year away, and you won’t want to miss it!