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DNR needs volunteers to mentor youth at UP State Fair in Escanaba

Visitors move through the front gate of the DNR's Pocket Park in Delta County.

If you’re looking for a volunteer opportunity to help young people experience outdoor recreation – helping instill in them a sense of Michigan’s great natural resources heritage and traditions – then the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is looking for you.

Mentors are needed to help staff the DNR’s Pocket Park during the Aug. 15-21 Upper Peninsula State Fair. Activities volunteers assist with include helping kids catch and release bluegills in the U.P.-shaped pond, shoot pellet guns or bow and arrow, staffing the fire tower or greeting visitors.

“Most folks who volunteer at the Pocket Park find it to be a very rewarding experience, with many returning to offer their help again this year,” said Kristi Dahlstrom, one of the DNR volunteer organizers. “The park attracts big crowds, which means we have a lot of available shifts for volunteers to fill.”

The DNR Pocket Park is a 1-acre site, located off U.S. 2, within the fairgrounds. The park caters especially to youngsters who are seeking an outdoor adventure or to learn an outdoor skill.

The U.P. State Fair draws more than 95,000 visitors annually, many of whom visit the Pocket Park to participate in the recreation activities, experience nature programs, visit with conservation officers or enjoy a relaxing, shaded spot to sit, in a natural resource setting. The Pocket Park has a wooded landscape and a small waterfall.

“Volunteering at the Pocket Park is a positive and rewarding experience all the way around,” said Jo Ann Alexander, one of the DNR volunteer organizers. “Youth enjoy a fun experience, parents get to introduce their kids to potentially new activities, with the help of others, and the volunteers gain the satisfaction of knowing they are helping guide youth in recreation activities that may help shape their future interests.”

Businesses and organizations, or clubs and groups, may wish to sponsor shifts during the fair by having their employees or members volunteer as a group. Recognition of the group or business will be prominently displayed and announced.

Volunteer training for all activities is provided.

Shifts during fair week include:

  • 5-8 p.m. Monday (fair opening day – Aug. 15)
  • 11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. and 3:30-7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday
  • Noon-3 p.m. Sunday (final day of the fair – Aug. 21)

Volunteers must be at least 16 years old (unless under pre-approved circumstances) and pass a background check. A meal and T-shirt will be provided.

Anyone interested in volunteering should contact Jo Ann Alexander at 906-786-2351, Ext. 0 or or Kristi Dahlstrom at 906-226-1331 or

The Pocket Park is open Memorial Day to Labor Day by appointment to host family gatherings, picnics, youth organizations, school groups, sports associations, scouting campouts, and public events that include some introduction to fishing, shooting or outdoor recreation.

Those interested in booking an event at the Pocket Park can call 906-789-0714 or 906-786-2351 to reserve a date.

Note to editors: Accompanying photos are available below for download. Caption information follows. Credit: Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Park: The Michigan Department of Natural Resources Pocket Park is a popular place, especially during fair week in August in Escanaba.

Target: A young girl sizes up her target after getting instructions on how to shoot a bow and arrow at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Pocket Park in Escanaba.

Contact: Kristi Dahlstrom, 906-226-1331 or Jo Ann Alexander, 906-786-2351