A foggy morning didn’t keep 3,000 San Antonians of all ages from getting out and enjoying the sixth annual “Get Outdoors!” event March 1 at Mission San José, part of the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. Organized by the San Antonio River Authority (SARA) and the National Park Service (NPS), this free, family-friendly event offered the chance to explore the great outdoors in an historic setting.
Yellow and blue bags dotted the mission landscape. Bright yellow “Explorer” packs loaded with goodies were given to the first 1,500 children coming through the mission gates, while grown-ups happily toted the free trees given away in blue sacks.
With 56 exhibitors, there was plenty to choose from. Community Relations Organizer Darlene Dorsey of SARA noted organizations are selected to participate who are “all about the outdoors,” including outdoor exercise, health and fitness as well as booths that focus on environmental issues and nature.
Native heritage was also displayed and explained, with Daniel Cantu of the National Park Service busy demonstrating to rapt onlookers items from nature which were used by indigenous people. Deer antlers served as handy implements for creating pin holes in leather, a horn could be converted into a drinking cup or, with a leather lid, be used for seed storage, and mesquite beans were prime ingredients for making bread or drinks.
At the SARA table, children crowded round to make bird feeders by slathering cardboard cut-out birds with peanut butter before dipping into boxes of birdseed. Meanwhile, roping and fishing lessons were given sans live animals as boys and girls cast fishing lines onto blue tarps and determinedly struggled to get their lassos over plastic cattle heads attached to hay bales.
Jeff Brumbalow from Boy Scout Troop 90 at Abiding Presence Lutheran Church explained to bystanders how to build a campfire without leaving a “footprint” behind. Lay down a small tarp, shovel on dirt and stack your wood on that. “That way when we’re done, you can’t tell we were even here,” he said with a smile.
Elsewhere, agile youngsters scaled faux rock towers while others hugged popular mascots – Ballapeno from San Antonio Missions baseball, Chips the dog and Salsa the Cat from Animal Care Services, and smiling grocery sack, H-E-Buddy. (H-E-B served as sponsor for this year’s “Get Outdoors!”)
The Witte Museum offered the chance to see and touch a live snake, rat and giant cockroach, with parents getting in on the fun as well. “Oh! His little paws are cold!’ squealed a mother gingerly touching the rat held out to her.
Atop the San Antonio Zoo’s giraffe print tablecloth, passersby were invited to stick their hands into holes and guess what they were touching. The mystery objects ranged from skunk and raccoon pelts to snake skins and an armadillo shell.
Flint knapping was another popular pastime, as children tried their hand at transforming slivers of stone into arrow heads, their eyes protected by goggles.
Ride Away bicycles offered participants a contest, with prizes for who could peddle a stationary bicycle the fastest, the bike hooked up to an apparatus which regulated how fast water gushed from a specially rigged faucet.
“Come on, the dog’s gonna get you!’ yelled one of the booth operators as the young bicyclist gritted his teeth and pumped the peddles even faster.
Padre Island National Seashore offered a display of shells, coral and other remnants of sea life, including turtle shells, allowing the children to pick each up to admire as a park ranger gave explanations.
“Wow!” said a little boy after examining the intricacies of a piece of coral. “I want to be a marine biologist.”
And among the many happy participants at “Get Outdoors!” was Trudy Bahr, the happy winner of the drawing for a red kayak. It was, she said, the first time she had ever won anything in a contest. When asked if she’d navigated one before, her answer was, “No, but I’m sure gonna learn!”
For “Get Outdoors!” –goal accomplished.
*Featured/top photo: Activities and participants at the 2014 Get Outdoors! event at Mission San José. Photo by Carol Baass Sowa.