A long journey to Midwest Outdoor Experience

Kristen Wicker

Photo: The Inspired Stunt Shows team takes BMX to new heights at Urban Outdoor Experience, Oct. 1-2
This fall, Mike Fanelli plans on attending his favorite local event in a style all his own. He’ll arrive on foot, fresh off the Buckeye Trail — and in the same boots he will have been wearing for a week.

The region’s premier outdoor adventure festival, Five Rivers MetroParks’ Wagner Subaru Outdoor Experience, is a free event that offers visitors an opportunity to experience more than 25 outdoor activities. From 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1 and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastwood MetroPark will be filled with dozens of vendors, hands-on activities, demos, food, and music Sunday, Oct. 2. For Fanelli, however, the adventure begins the week prior.

He will lead a small group of seasoned backpackers along a 110-mile portion of the Buckeye Trail. Starting at Eden Park in Cincinnati and covering 20 miles per day, they will reach Eastwood MetroPark just in time to enjoy the festivities.

“The Wagner Subaru Outdoor Experience is something I look forward to every year,” Fanelli says. “I enjoy being around outdoor people. I get energized by them.”

A lifelong nature enthusiast and Five Rivers MetroParks volunteer, Fanelli, 68, has already backpacked half the Buckeye Trail, about 700 miles of the 1,400-mile loop that circles Ohio. Typically cycling into the Wagner Subaru Outdoor Experience from Centerville, he opted to backpack this year, allowing him to travel a portion of the Buckeye Trail he has yet to conquer. His journey will culminate with friends, entertainment, and new experiences; the latter of which is always a pleasant surprise to this well-versed outdoorsman.

“There is anything you can imagine to do,” Fanelli says. “I thought I had tried everything outdoors, but there is something new to find every year.”

In addition to new activities — such as the Princeton Tec Rock the Night Hunt, where participants have chance to win up to $500 in gear, Kid’s Skills Lab and clinics with the pros — Five Rivers MetroParks has also extended the event’s weekend hours.

“The public asked for more daytime hours, and we listened,” says Lucy Sanchez, outdoor recreation coordinator for Five Rivers MetroParks. “By extending the event’s hours and moving to a Saturday through Sunday schedule, we’re able to engage more families and offer more of what people love: new, exciting ways to experience the outdoors.”

Developed with a variety of skill levels in mind, Fanelli believes Outdoor Experience is a great opportunity for budding outdoor adventurers, including children.

“There are so many hands-on things happening, from kayaking in the lagoon to slacklining,” Fanelli says. “Getting kids exposed to the outdoors shows them that nature can be a safe place, and I think that’s really important.”

Outdoor action for all ages: Visitors can try their hand at a variety of activities open to all skill levels in various experience areas across Eastwood MetroPark. Add to your biking knowledge at the Bike Village, and then get rolling on the pump track. Build outdoor living skills at the Outdoor School and discover backcountry camping at the Osprey Backcountry Zone. Children can try a variety of outdoor activities at the Youth Adventure Zone, including animal encounters, climbing, and nature play. From low-key fitness programs, fishing, and geocaching to heart-pumping paddling, snow tubing, and climbing activities, participants will create a personalized outdoor adventure.

Demos will inspire: Festivalgoers can view freestyle kayakers on the Mad River Run and over-the-top Slackline Stunt Duels. The Inspired Stunt Shows team will take BMX tricks to new heights, while the Craig Wright Bike Stunt Show features unbelievable mountain bike skills. Watch the high-flying Team Zoom disc dogs and bring a furry friend to get in on the fun at the Bark Zone.

Ready, set, compete: Attendees have the opportunity to compete in several challenges, including the Vibram Disc Golf challenge and the ORRRC State Champion 12-hour endurance run. Hit the water for the NAPRA Wade Fishing Challenge and Dayton Kayak Fishing Challenge, and then head to land for Miles for Freedom and Cache In, Trash Out Geocaching. There are even events for canine companions, such as the Ruff Run 5K presented by Runners Plus and Buckeye DockDogs.

Vendors, contests, music: Visitors can peruse the used gear area and check out new offerings from their favorite industry exhibitors. Stop by the Great Miami Outfitters Outpost for the latest equipment from Osprey, MSR, Platypus, Therm-A-Rest, Jetboil, and more. Make connections with local clubs and participate in exciting contests for a chance to win awesome gear for the entire family.

Festivalgoers also will enjoy live music and get a taste of Dayton in the Great Lakes Brewing Company Food & Beer Garden, featuring a variety of local food trucks, beverages, and craft beer.

As part of Five Rivers MetroParks conservation mission, vendors are participating in the event’s waste-free initiative and will not sell plastic water bottles and serve food only on compostable or locally recyclable materials. Visitors are encouraged to bring their own water bottle. Guests also are welcome to bring a tent and camp for the weekend on the banks of the Eastwood Lagoon. Campsites are free and available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Wagner Subaru Midwest Outdoor Experience takes place Saturday, Oct. 1 from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 2 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Eastwood MetroPark, 1385 Harshman Rd. in Dayton. Admission and parking are free. For more information, please visit Metroparks.org/OutdoorX.

Reach DCP freelance writer Lauren Lemons at LaurenLemons@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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