COLUMBUS — Smokey Bear has been an Ohio State Fair tradition and fairgoer favorite since 1959, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).
This year, a brand new animatronic Smokey Bear will welcome state fair visitors to the ODNR Natural Resources Park during the Ohio State Fair. This new exhibit is just one of the many free family-friendly activities available at the park, which will be open throughout the Ohio State Fair from July 29-Aug. 9.
“The Ohio State Fair provides us with such a great opportunity to share the ODNR message about all of the great recreational opportunities we have here in Ohio,” said ODNR Director James Zehringer. “The ODNR Natural Resources Park gives all of our visitors a chance to try out activities they might not get to experience, such as kayaking, fishing or disc golf.”
This year, visitors will be welcomed to the park by a brand new Smokey Bear, whose moving arms, head and mouth will continue Smokey’s mission of teaching people about how they can prevent wildfires. The 14-foot-tall Smokey will greet each child who comes to visit by name from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Additionally, a Smokey Bear hot air balloon will take to the skies and float high above the fairgrounds the mornings of July 29-31, weather permitting.
A fun activity which is open daily for visitors of all ages is the 7,000-square-foot kayak pond. ODNR Division of Watercraft staff will be on hand to help people learn new paddling skills. Additionally, a stand-up paddleboarding demonstration will occur daily at 3 p.m. in the kayak pond. New this year is the addition of a personal watercraft simulator, which will allow visitors the fun experience of “riding” a jet ski while staying (mostly) dry.
For people interested in fishing, the Youth Fishing Pond is open daily to guests under 14. Kids can fish for one of almost 2,000 bluegill that will be stocked throughout the fair, and they will have the option to keep their catch. Fish filleting and frying demonstrations will also be featured at the fishing pond for guests of all ages.
The ever popular ODNR Amphitheater will once again provide outdoor entertainment to visitors, with seating for approximately 500 people, from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. daily. Amphitheater acts range from music groups and lumberjacks to animals from the Columbus Zoo, as well as a show featuring retriever dogs.
Visitors can learn about Ohio’s native wildlife, such as snapping turtles and rat snakes, along the wildlife boardwalk. Park visitors are welcome to visit the Butterfly House to get an up close look at butterflies emerging from their chrysalises. Visitors are also invited to Ruthven’s Aviary, which offers fairgoers a chance to learn about making their backyards wildlife-friendly, especially for Ohio’s native bird species.
For the second year in a row, disc golf will be offered in the Ohio State Parks camping village, with professionals available to teach visitors about golfing skills and equipment. In the camping village, visitors can also explore some of the options available to people wishing to stay overnight in one of Ohio’s 74 state parks, with ODNR’s new Play and Stay camper and a yurt being featured this year.
The Ohio Public House, a renovated pioneer cabin, will transport visitors back in time to Ohio in the 1800s. Volunteers in period costumes as well as a variety of activities, games and music will teach visitors about Ohio’s pioneer days.
Fairgoers are also encouraged to try their hand at archery or visit the Annie Oakley BB Shooting Range. Instructors from the ODNR Division of Wildlife will be in the park to assist visitors in these activities.
Visitors are encouraged to stop by the ODNR information booth to pick up natural resources literature. Don’t forget to stop by the gift shop to see a wide array of souvenirs, clothing and toys available for purchase.
Located at the Ohio Expo Center and State Fairgrounds in the southeast corner of the fairgrounds, the ODNR Natural Resources Park will be open for the duration the park, and all of its activities are open from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. daily and are free for anyone attending the fair. Visit ohiodnr.gov/state-fair for more information about the ODNR Natural Resources Park and to check out the daily amphitheater schedule.
The Ohio State Fair runs from Wednesday, July 29, through Sunday, Aug. 9. For more information about the Ohio State Fair, go to ohiostatefair.com.