If there's one thing Shane Berry wants people to know this year, rain won't dampen the spirits of the 100-plus volunteers and 150-plus presenters ready for this weekend's JAKES event.
Rain or shine, JAKES: Conserve, Hunt, Share field day, set for Saturday, May 20, on the farm of Darrel Stogsdill, will take place. Regardless of the weather forecast.
"Things are looking good for Saturday," Berry said, as he and others worked to set up events. "The schedule is done, the presenters are all in place. We've been working on the field for two weeks."
Berry said even if the anticipated rain comes, the event - which routinely draws more than 1,000 children from the ages of 5 to 17 - will take place. The only thing which would cancel the event is if high waters prevent folks from entering the pasture, or severe storms with lightning and other dangerous conditions.
"We always want a smooth, safe event," Berry said. "Most presenters will be under tents. If something happens on Friday evening, we'll have bulldozers ready on Saturday morning to do whatever is necessary to get the event up and running."
This isn't the first time Berry and his team have faced the potential for a wet event.
He said it rained for the very first JAKES event held more than 13 years ago.
"It rained all day long," Berry said. "But it was one of the most memorable events we've ever had."
The field day is organized by volunteers from the Grand Gobblers of the National Wild Turkey Federation. JAKES stands for Juniors Acquiring Knowledge, Ethics and Stewardship. It's designed to help students learn more about outdoor activities in a safe environment.
Berry said he loves watching as students of all ages take their first horseback ride, shoot their first shotgun or zips down the zipline.
"I love seeing kids do something they've never done for the first time," Berry said. "The wide-eyed, excitement. From making a turkey call to catching an invertebrate in the stream, to catching their first fish.
"Their excitement is why we do this."
At the highest attendance - in 2014, more than 900 students attended the event. Last year, attendance was impacted by construction on the Whitewater Creek bridge.
This year, with the bridge back open, Berry and his team are expecting a large turnout. Organizers do ask that students be accompanied by an adult during the event.
More About JAKES
The Grand Gobblers’ JAKES Event is the largest structured outdoor classroom of its kind in the nation. Though it has grown and evolved since 2003, its core mission remains intact:Encourage youth to be active outdoors, Make the event as accessible as possible, Offer a diverse range of age-appropriate activities, Encourage good outdoor ethics and environmental stewardship, Provide activities with quality instruction from enthusiastic volunteers, and Hold the event free of charge.
For groups of five or more students - especially groups being brought by volunteers from area organizations, churches or scouting groups - pre-registration is available.
Berry said adult leaders are asked to contact Kim Berry at firstname.lastname@example.org by 5 p.m., Friday, May 19, to complete the process.
For others, registration begins on site at 8:30 a.m. The demonstration area - which also includes the safety course for gun-related sports and a magic presentation by Doug Anderson - will be open from 8:30 to 10 a.m.
The event will officially get underway near the 10 a.m. hour, when local Broadway star Ron Young sings the national anthem. Weather permitting local pilot Dr. John Swartz will do a flyover.
The learning stations will be open from 10 a.m. to 2:45 p.m., with two different lunch rotations at 11:30 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. A free hot dog lunch will be provided to participants.
New this year
This year, the volunteers have added a four-sided climbing wall, as well as archery tag, both of which are geared for the older students.
"Archery tag is like dodge ball with archery equipment," Berry said. "The rules are flexible. Kids wear protective equipment for the face and ears. The arrows have nerf tips and only fly about 100 feet per second.
"It was tested by the coordinators. We had a blast. It's extremely safe, but extremely physical. There's lots of running and movement."
Another addition, for younger students, is a presenter who will demonstrate how to make cornhusk dolls.
Berry said a few other stations have been modified, and a low ropes course is being added this week - because high waters may impact the zip line.
Volunteers are needed to help set up the JAKES event on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, as well as during the event on Saturday.
On the day of the event, volunteers are needed to help staff the learning stations, organize the lunch tent, watch children fishing at the pond, help with registration and more.
Berry said volunteers of all ages and abilities are needed to ensure the event is a success.
At least 75 volunteers are needed this week to help with set-up activities and upwards of 200 are needed on the day of the event.
If You Go
The JAKES Event will take place 1.5 miles south of Grove (from the Honey Creek Bridge) on Highway 59, then turn east on Stan Watie Road (Whitewater Road) then follow the signs.
The event is free to students 5 to 17 years of age. Children must be accompanied by an adult. No pets or personal firearms are allowed. Participants will be required to complete a registration and release form, which includes a release of liability and photo release.
Registration paperwork is available online at www.grandgobblers.com or on Facebook at http://bit.ly/jakes-grove. Organizations bringing groups of students may pre-register by calling at 918-801-2840.
For more information, to volunteer, or to make a financial donation to help with the annual event, persons interested may contact Berry at 918-801-2840 or Sean Worley at 918-791-1144. Additional information may be found online at www.jakeseventgroveok.com or at http://bit.ly/jakes-grove.