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DNR needs volunteers to mentor youth in outdoor recreation activities at the UP State Fair in Escanaba

Sign-up for a volunteer shift; opportunities for groups, business sponsorships

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. 12-18 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. Highway 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 100,000 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.

Volunteers training for all activities is provided.

Shifts during fair week include:

  • 5-8 p.m. Monday (fair opening day - Aug. 12)
  • 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. 18)

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 through Labor Day for family gatherings, picnics, youth organizations, school groups, sports associations, scouting campouts, and public events that include some introduction to fishing, shooting or outdoor recreation.

For more information or to book an event at the Pocket Park, call 906-789-0714 or email

Note to editors: An accompanying photo is available below for download. Caption information follows. Credit: Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Fish: A young boy holds up a bluegill he caught at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Pocket Park in Escanaba.