COLUMBUS – The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is continuing the tradition of bringing the great outdoors to the Ohio State Fair. A fairgoer favorite since 1957, the Natural Resources Park will offer free interactive exhibits and displays that allow visitors a glimpse into the outdoor recreational opportunities in Ohio. Located in the southeast corner of the state fairgrounds, the park will be open to all fairgoers attending the Ohio State Fair, which runs July 25-Aug 5. Free activities are available for people to enjoy in the park 11 a.m.-7 p.m. daily.
“The Natural Resources Park provides people with a chance to experience and participate in outdoor recreational activities through hands-on and interactive exhibits,” ODNR Director James Zehringer said. “The Ohio State Fair gives us an ideal opportunity to share everything we do here at ODNR and allows visitors to participate in some great activities that can be found across the state.”
A new Touch-a-Truck exhibit will make its debut this year at the Ohio State Fair. This kid-friendly exhibit will contain different types of vehicles that are used by ODNR. Visitors can jump aboard a boat provided by the ODNR Division of Parks and Watercraft or admire a bulldozer used by the ODNR Division of Forestry.
This year, K-9s for Conservation will be making an appearance at the Natural Resources Park. Trained patrol K-9s will be there for meet and greet along with their handlers. A K-9 and their handler will also be doing demonstrations throughout the week at the ODNR Amphitheater.
This year, the Camping Village will offer guests a peaceful stroll through the Natural Resources Park by being transformed into a camping trail. This trail will showcase some of the overnight options available at Ohio’s state parks. Make sure to stop and experience “riding” a jet ski on the personal watercraft simulator stationed along the trail. The camping trail will encourage fairgoers to dive into Ohio’s outdoors and experience the trails around the state.
For its second year, the Wild Ohio Shooting Range houses archery and air gun ranges. People of all ages and skill levels can learn about safe shooting techniques while in a safe and educational environment. This building can accommodate up to 10 shooters at the air gun range and five shooters at the archery range.
Learn to fish, talk to Smokey Bear
Youth under the age of 14 visiting the Natural Resources Park can become experts at the youth fishing pond. Returning for its second year, the Fish Ohio Building will be the next stop for all guests. The building houses refrigerated storage to temporarily hold fish that youth have caught until they are ready to be picked up and taken home. Staff will also be giving fish filleting and cooking demonstrations.
Back by popular demand, the 7,000-square-foot pond at the Natural Resources Park will give guests a chance to try their hand at kayaking. Guests will be fitted with a life jacket before receiving a demonstration on how to safely kayak.
One of the favorite exhibits for people visiting the park is talking with Smokey Bear, an animatronic bear who talks to visitors about preventing wildfires with his moving arms, hands and mouth. Smokey Bear will greet children by name from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. A 71-foot-tall fire tower, originally built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1934 in Pike County, is also located directly behind Smokey to reinforce the icon’s fire prevention message.
The ODNR Natural Resources Park will once again offer free outdoor entertainment in the ODNR Amphitheater, which seats 600 people. Visitors can sit back and relax in a shaded area and enjoy the show. Retriever dogs, lumberjacks, naturalists and more can all be found performing on the amphitheater stage. A detailed list of acts is located on ODNR’s state fair website.
The Natural Resources Park offers a multitude of educational opportunities. Stroll through the Geological Walkway to learn about Ohio’s ancient natural materials, and an audio tour is available online for guests who are interested in learning more. Guests are also encouraged to enjoy the tallgrass prairie, where more than 85 species of prairie plants can be found.
There are also educational opportunities for guests looking to learn more about wildlife. Visit the Butterfly House to be transported into a magical world of vibrant colors, while gazing up at butterflies and learning about a butterfly’s life cycle. Stop by Ruthven’s Aviary to learn about some of Ohio’s native bird species, as well as how to create wildlife-friendly backyards. For a more hands-on experience, visit the Scenic Rivers touch pool. The shallow pool will contain many of Ohio’s native macroinvertebrates species, plus a few crayfish and small stream fish. The Scenic Rivers program monitors these creatures to help gauge stream health.
The ODNR information booth will offer natural resources literature, and the gift shop will showcase a wide array of souvenirs, clothing and toys available for purchase.
For more information about the ODNR Natural Resources Park or to check out the daily amphitheater schedule, visit ohiodnr.gov/statefair. For more information about the Ohio State Fair, go to ohiostatefair.com.