The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) will once again welcome visitors to the Natural Resources Park at the Ohio State Fair with free interactive exhibits and displays, allowing visitors to experience and see some of Ohio’s outdoor opportunities.
Located in the southeast corner of the state fairgrounds, the park will be open to all fairgoers throughout the Ohio State Fair, which runs July 26-Aug. 6. Free activities are available for people to enjoy from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. daily.
“The Ohio State Fair gives us an ideal opportunity to showcase to fairgoers some of the recreational opportunities available in every corner of the Buckeye State,” ODNR Director James Zehringer said. “Our Natural Resources Park is a favorite tradition for many visitors to the Ohio State Fair, and we are pleased to continue to offer this free park to share hands-on and interactive exhibits promoting Ohio’s great outdoors.”
Two brand-new wildlife buildings will make their debut at the 2017 Ohio State Fair this year. The first building is the Wild Ohio Shooting Range, which houses newly constructed archery and air gun ranges. This new building can accommodate up to 10 shooters at the air gun range and five shooters at the archery range. The ranges are open to all ages and skill levels from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.
The second new wildlife building is called the Fish Ohio Building, which is a redesigned fish house where staff will be giving fish filleting and cooking demonstrations. The demonstration area includes a TV to allow more people to watch the process. The building also houses refrigerated storage to temporarily hold fish caught in the youth fishing area until kids are ready to pick them up and take them home. The new fish house will be open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.
Another new attraction is the Scenic Rivers touch pool. The shallow pool will be eight feet by three feet and will contain many of Ohio’s native macroinvertebrate species, plus a few crayfish and small stream fish. The touch pool allows visitors to experience the magic of dipping a hand into a stream to find live creatures, and it shows how the Scenic Rivers program monitors these creatures to help gauge stream health. The touch pool will be staffed by volunteers from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.
Returning exhibits include the popular kayak pond, which is a 7,000-square-foot pond, which gives guests an opportunity to safely learn how to kayak. ODNR has also partnered with L.L. Bean to help fit kayakers into the right size life jacket. Sign up for this experience at the pavilion in the ODNR Natural Resources Park. Additionally, located near the kayak pond, the personal watercraft simulator will be available, allowing visitors to experience “riding” a jet ski.
A new animatronic Smokey Bear was installed in 2015, replacing the original 55-year-old Smokey. The new display has moving arms, head and mouth, which allows him to continue sharing his mission by teaching fairgoers how they can prevent wildfires. Smokey Bear will greet each child who comes to visit 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 youth fishing pond is also back by popular demand. Children under the age of 14 can learn how to catch and cook one of the 2,000 hybrid bluegill that have been stocked for the fair. A family-friendly opportunity, kids are sure to catch the fishing bug once they experience this fun and educational recreational opportunity.
The ODNR Natural Resources Park will continue providing free outdoor entertainment in the ODNR Amphitheater, which has been expanded to seat more than 600 people during multiple daily performances throughout the fair. Acts will range from lumberjack competitions, animal demonstrations with animals from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, as well as the ever popular retriever dog show, in addition to music and clogging performances.
Other educational opportunities are available, including the Butterfly House, where guests can view a dazzling array of colors while gazing at butterflies up close and learning about their lifecycle. Visitors are also encouraged to check out Ruthven’s Aviary, which will feature some of Ohio’s native bird species, as well as how to create wildlife-friendly backyards. Fairgoers will also enjoy walking through a tall grass prairie exhibit, representing Ohio’s native plant life.
Families will enjoy the shade of the trees in the arboretum at the Natural Resources Park at the Ohio State Fair, which is a perfect retreat from the hustle and bustle of the midway. ODNR has received accreditation by the ArbNet Arboretum Accreditation Program for the Natural Resources Park, which features the Governors Grove, with trees planted by Ohio Governor John Kasich and many of his predecessors. Many other trees in the park are labeled, including an American sweetgum tree grown from seed that traveled more than 2 million miles on the first flight of the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1984.
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.
ODNR ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR website at ohiodnr.gov.