The Chattanooga-area chapter of Ducks Unlimited is already making plans for the 2019 “Great Outdoors Festival” Greenwing event for youngsters. Members say they are still coming down from an emotional high after an incredibly successful event last Saturday (March 17).
In 2017 just over 100 kids showed up at the premier event. Organizer Ross Malone said they more than doubled that number Saturday when they signed up 240 youngsters. Along with their families, well over 600 people showed up at Covey Creek Farms in Rossville. The event was totally free, including a hot dog lunch.
“It was a most humbling experience seeing the kids’ smiling faces,” said Malone. “From shooting a 20 gauge shotgun, pulling an arrow back to let it fly, tossing a worm with a fishing pole and just watching them taking an adult’s hand to walk to the next station in a outdoor-friendly setting. These different pictures are still on my mind days later. This has made all of the countless hours of meetings, hours of work the day before and day of the event time well-spent for the kids.
Sportsman’s Warehouse was the premier sponsor of the event, providing the funds to give the first 200 kids a free Ducks Unlimited Greenwing membership. Other benefactors have chipped in to insure every youngster gets a membership. Sportsman Warehouse also gave away an entire campsite including a 2-person Slumberjack tent, two Slumberjack sleeping bags, Sportsman’s Warehouse chairs, a Brunton camp stove, a Black Diamond 100 lumen lantern and an Igloo 30 QT cooler.
Chattanooga Sportsman’s Warehouse General Manager Karl Schiltz was presented with a plaque for his store’s outstanding contribution to the effort.
In addition to Sportsman’s Warehouse, virtually every outdoor conservation organization or business represented in the Chattanooga area or Tennessee – at least 20 in all – had goods, displays and interactive activities on hand for the kids. Organizers said the shooting sport activities seemed to be the biggest attraction.
The Str8 Shooters Clay Team was on hand to help youngsters try their hand at shotgunning for clay targets. A BB gun range provided by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation was rarely empty and Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officers stayed busy helping youngsters on their archery range.
Tennessee Fish & Wildlife Commissioner Tony Sanders said, “Events like these, spearheaded by dozens of volunteers and sponsors, are what really matter and will keep replenishing the hunters and fishermen of the future.”
Andy Oliveira, the District Chairman for Ducks Unlimited said, “I was told that there is discussion in Memphis [DU Headquarters] that our chapter will be used as some type of model for a national Greenwing Event initiative.”