Get out and live!

The Midwest Outdoor Experience at Eastwood MetroPark

By Valerie Beerbower

Six years ago, outdoor recreation enthusiasts gathered in the parking lot at what is now the PNC 2nd Street Market and hosted a gear swap. Equipment was sold, new friends were made and good times were had by all. Then the event gained traction and added exhibitors, activities and quickly outgrew the Market. After GearFest moved to Eastwood MetroPark, it exploded into a weekend-long festival celebrating all things outdoors. In addition to claiming 12,000 attendees at the 2011 event, GearFest attracted national attention, nabbing big-time sponsors like Subaru, Yakima, Eddie Bauer and Subway. It became clear the event was so much more than gear.

For the 2012 iteration, the name was changed from GearFest to the Midwest Outdoor Experience to better reflect the nature of the event. This year’s recreation celebration is taking place Friday, Oct. 5, through Saturday, Oct. 6, at Eastwood MetroPark, 1385 Harshman Road, in Dayton.

Festival-goers will discover a world of outdoor adventure waiting for them in Dayton, the “Outdoor Adventure Capital of the Midwest.” Check out high-flying demos, thrilling competitions and hands-on activities that allow participants to try new recreational pursuits. There’s something for everyone at this free, family-friendly festival – even pets! Dogs can romp freely off-leash on Subaru Pooch Island, and Rover can compete head-to-tail against other dogs in the Subaru Ultimate Air Dogs competition.

From camping to biking to kayaking, the whole family can get engaged. On-site exhibitors will hook patrons up with gear they need to “Get Out & Live,” and local clubs and other outdoor adventure resources onsite will help patrons connect to local events and activities year-round. Try a new outdoor activity or watch the experts perform during demos and competitions. Visit outdoorx.org and click on the “Things to Experience” link under the “Get Active” menu to see the full lineup of outdoor activities.

The Midwest Outdoor Experience, presented by Subaru, includes activities for all ages, but kids will find a special place to hang out at the Subway Fresh Fit Youth Adventure Zone. Older attendees can relax with a craft brew from the beer garden. The Midwest Outdoor Experience also partnered with the Dayton Music Fest to bring local performers to the stage. Check out food trucks and other meal vendors to refuel in between trying new adventure pursuits. Find the entertainment lineup, food vendors (including vegetarian options), exhibitor information and more by visiting outdoorx.org and making a selection from the “Get Culture” menu.

Returning this year is the Gibbon USA National Slackline Championships. Festival fans will remember this favorite event from last year, and those new to the sport may recall seeing U.S. pro Andy Lewis performing at the 2012 Super Bowl Halftime Show. Slacklining is one part tightrope walking, one part freestyle skateboarding and one part gymnastics. Anyone still scratching their head at this concept should watch the video on outdoorx.org.  Festival-goers can try it for themselves or watch the pros in the competition.

Admission and parking are free, but the success of this annual event depends on sponsorships and contributions from patrons. The suggested donation for this action-packed weekend is $5. Stay the weekend and “rough it” in the Eddie Bauer campground (sites are free and available on a first-come, first-served basis) or take weekend residence at the Crowne Plaza, located near the Oregon District, just minutes from Eastwood MetroPark. Campers can wake to a continental breakfast and a Go w/The Flow yoga session.

In homage to the event’s inception, exhibitors round out the fun at the Midwest Outdoor Experience, presented by Subaru. Find great deals on gear plus connect with local clubs. Now anyone can “Get Out & Live” all year long.

Reach DCP freelance writer Valerie Beerbower at ValerieBeerbower@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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