Groton--After a year's hiatus, due to the pandemic, the Outdoor Family Weekend (OFW) is back with a number of new, fun and engaging hands-on workshops and activities for both experienced and first-time campers.

University of Vermont (UVM) Extension and the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources' Departments of Fish and Wildlife and Forests, Parks and Recreation have teamed up to host the event, which will be held Sept. 10-12 at Stillwater State Park in Groton. Families are invited to join in the fun to learn or improve outdoor skills, try a new recreational activity or discover something unfamiliar in nature.

The $175 registration fee covers the campsite (up to eight individuals), three workshops per camper, nightly campfires and entertainment and access to all park facilities including free rental of canoes. A few workshops will incur an additional fee for materials.

A $50 discount will be given to families of current military personnel. To receive a discount code for registration, call Virginia Jaquish at (802) 751-8307 or (800) 545-8920, ext. 351.  Anyone requiring a disability-related accommodation to participate should contact her by Aug. 20, which is also the deadline to register for the weekend.

However, early registration is advised as campsites are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis, and many workshops fill to capacity quickly.

The weekend kicks off with an ice cream social on Friday evening. OFW alum and woodsman Nate Gusakov of Lincoln will share original songs and traditional banjo tunes by the campfire.

On Saturday evening campers will be treated to s'mores and explore nature's mysteries through community storytelling with Virginia Holiman, a Highgate farm-to-school educator, and Kurt Valenta, founder of the Exordium Nature Experience in Enosburgh Falls.

Participants are encouraged to bring a piece of cloth, fiber or natural material to the gathering to be used to weave a tapestry of words and memories. They also will have a chance to view and touch pelts, skulls, tracks and other objects from nature before the storytelling session.

Each camper may sign up for three expert-led workshops, choosing from more than 30 options. These include outdoor cooking, bushwhacking, mountain biking, turkey calling and hunting safety, painting in the outdoors, upland game and bird dogs, career opportunities in arboriculture and outdoor first aid, along with numerous other choices.

Campers also may take a self-guided canoe trip, enjoy a morning bird walk, receive instruction in various shooting sports or build a Leopold bench out of locally harvested wood from Groton State Forest. Offerings ideal for younger campers include exploring shapes and textures in nature, learning how to fish, signs and stories in nature and a natural artifact scavenger hunt, among others.

In addition to scheduled activities, families will have ample free time to hike, bike, fish, swim or boat at the park, which is located on Groton Lake in the 28,000-acre Groton State Forest. Campers wishing to extend their stay may camp for free on Sunday night. Arrangements should be made at the park office upon arrival.

Past participants who get a new family to register for the weekend will be entered in the Refer-a-Family drawing to win a free weekend stay at any Vermont state park, courtesy of the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation.

If questions, contact Allison Smith at or (802) 651-8343, ext. 509. Or check out


Allison Smith