Home Enthusiast Prairie Pothole Day Designed to Inspire Generations of Outdoor Enthusiasts in West Central Minnesota – West Central Tribune

Prairie Pothole Day Designed to Inspire Generations of Outdoor Enthusiasts in West Central Minnesota – West Central Tribune

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NEW LONDON — Families and outdoor enthusiasts from across west-central Minnesota gathered at Stoney Ridgey Farm near New London on Saturday, Sept. 10 to participate in the 39th annual Prairie Pothole Day.

The event, organized by friends and volunteers of the Prairie Pothole Conservation Association, helps raise funds for conservation efforts in surrounding communities.

“This year would have been the 40th” year of the event, said Tom Hanson, 61, president of the conservation group, but the group chose not to hold the event in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Tents scattered around the grounds of Stoney Ridge Farm, located off State Highway 9 and US Highway 71 northwest of New London, hold various conservation and outdoor recreation exhibits during Nest Day- de-poule des Prairies on Saturday, September 10, 2022.

Dale Morin / West Central Tribune

Prairie Pothole Day is designed to bring Minnesota families to spend a day outdoors and learn about sports and conservation through activities and exhibits. Admission has always been free and various raffles are held throughout the day to help raise funds for conservation efforts.

Despite the event’s long history, the Prairie Pothole Conservation Association is adjusting to a new period in its life.

According to Hanson, the association was formed out of necessity. The group was once a chapter of the defunct Minnesota Waterfowl Association, which disbanded in 2019. Hanson said the association is always looking for other conservation groups to collaborate with.

“We’re kind of in the fledgling states of getting our name out there in different areas,” he said.

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Children descend from the climbing wall using their harnesses on Prairie Pothole Day, Saturday, September 10, 2022, at Stoney Ridge Farm in northwest New London.

Dale Morin / West Central Tribune

Even with the new uncertainty, the association has been able to maintain Woodie Camp, an outdoor summer camp for children at the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center in Fergus Falls. Hanson said a large portion of the day’s proceeds will go to that camp, as well as building and maintaining the wood duck house that the group performs year-round.

Hanson said Prairie Pothole Day has raised about $15,000 in 2021, and based on the day’s turnout, he expects a similar fundraising result from 2022. The event attracts thousands of people each year, and Hanson estimated attendance in 2022 at more than 5,000 people.

Roger Strand, 86, owner of Stoney Ridge Farm near New London, has been a part of Prairie Pothole Day since its inception. According to Strand, it grew out of a group of outdoor enthusiasts wanting to hold an event similar to Game Fair, another outdoor and conservation event held annually.

“I said if we were going to do this…then we can hold it at my house.” Strand said. “The rules would be that there is no admission fee and all children’s events are free.”

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Cattails and reeds help camouflage wood duck shelters near the lake at Stoney Ridge Farm northwest of New London, pictured on Saturday September 10, 2022, Prairie Pothole Day.

Dale Morin / West Central Tribune

Having a permanent location like Stoney Ridge Farm has allowed generations of people to come to the event to help build an entire community of outdoor enthusiasts.

“Without this property, we cannot exist,” Hanson said. “(Strand) opens up the whole (area) to us and tells us ‘do what you have to do’. We turn around and, if we see a path or something that we want to do differently, we take it out, show him and he says, ‘yeah, do it’.

Strand said the vision for Prairie Pothole Day is a family-oriented event.

“It starts when they’re about that age,” he says, pointing to a small child playing in the sandbox in front of his wood duck display stand and wood duck shelter. “Then as they get older they start volunteering here and running around the property doing chores, and now we have third generation committee members, and no one makes a dime. They are all volunteers.”

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A pair of wood duck shelters sit on the edge of the brush at Stoney Ridge Farm near State Highway 9 and US Highway 71 northwest of New London, pictured Saturday, September 10, 2022, during the Prairie Pothole Day.

Dale Morin / West Central Tribune

The Strand property is a remarkable location for an outdoor event. There are surrounding lakes, rolling hills where the shooting ranges were set up. The heavily forested areas host a scout camp and other activities, including an archery course. Strand’s uniquely designed wooden duck houses dot the entire area.

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A series of shooting ranges are in preparation for Prairie Pothole Day on September 10, 2022 at Stoney Ridge Farm northwest of New London.

Dale Morin / West Central Tribune

“It’s amazing,” Hanson said. “When we are here in early August we see deer, ducks, swans, turkeys, squirrels (and) many other birds. It’s just wildlife habitat here.

The 40th annual Prairie Pothole Day is scheduled for September 9, 2023, and organizers have plenty to keep in mind in the coming year.

“A lot of different ideas (are) being discussed,” Hanson said. “Basically, we end up with a core of exhibitors every year, but we want to expand that and offer different types of outdoor activities that will just go ‘wow!'”

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As visitors head back to their cars, a sign reading “Thank you, see you next year on Saturday September 9th” invites them to come back for Prairie Pothole Day in 2023.

Dale Morin / West Central Tribune