The return of the high-flying Keystone DockDogs competition; the “Taste of the Wild“ culinary event featuring delicacies like rattlesnake sausage and mini elk kabobs; and new activities designed to immerse kids in the wonders of the great outdoors highlight the third Step Outdoors Lehigh Valley festival at SteelStacks June 3-4. The festival, which is free to attend, includes two days of presentations, hands-on activities and educational experiences designed to encourage children and families to get outdoors, as well as learn about the many wildlife, outdoors and conservation-focused groups working in the region.
At Step Outdoors, children enjoy presentations and activities by more than 25 local and state groups. Activities include archery, biking, gardening, art & nature activities, hiking, nature photography, bluebird box building, fishing activities and more. Throughout the weekend, organizations like Hawk Mountain, Wildlands Conservancy and Bear Mountain Butterfly Sanctuary also offer a great mix of presentations featuring live wildlife.
The 2017 DockDogs competition, which takes place June 3, 10 a.m.-7 p.m., and June 4, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., feature amazingly athletic dogs performing high-flying feats as they leap into a 40-foot swimming pool set up on SteelStacks’ Air Products Town Square. During the competition, dogs go paw to paw as they compete in categories designed to showcase the highest leap, longest jump and quickest retrieve. New this year are the DockDogs’ K9 Aquatics, where festival attendees can bring their own dogs and try three DockDogs disciplines: Big Air, Speed Retrieve and the Extreme Vertical jump. Public jump times are 9-10 a.m. both days.
On June 2, 6 p.m., Step Outdoors kicks off with “Taste of the Wild,” where guests can sample game and fish inspired hors d’oeuvres while getting up close and personal with reptiles, amphibians and mammals from the Emmaus-based Wildland Conservancy. Tickets for the event, which features offerings like Candied Rattlesnake Sausage on Cheddar Cheese Grits Cake, Pomegranate Glazed Wild Boar Belly Sliders and Gator Bites with Cajun Aioli, are $38 for ArtsQuest Members and $40 for public. They’re on sale now at www.steelstacks.org/stepoutdoors.
Other Step Outdoors highlights include:
- Falconers Sean and Margaret Young flying the red-tailed hawk and American kestrel during falconry demonstrations on the Levitt Pavilion lawn.
- New hands-on activities like tomahawk throwing by Boy Scouts of America’s Minsi Trails Council and BB gun shooting safety by the Walking Purchase Chapter of National Wild Turkey Federation.
- Two Urban Bird Counts May 26 where Donegan Elementary School students will enjoy a hands-on educational experience as they learn the importance of citizen science and the benefits of contributing their observations to a database of birding records. The program is presented by Lehigh Gap Nature Center and Lehigh Valley Audubon.
Families looking for unique experiences that tie art to the outdoors will want to check out the Banana Factory Arts Center’s tent, where kids work with the staff to create a nature-themed collage or make their own paintbrushes out of twigs, dried flowers and other materials. In addition, the Banana Factory is offering fee-based workshops both days including the opportunity to make a Kokedama moss-wrapped hanging plant or a Glass Jar Biosphere, filled with rocks, water plants and ghost shrimp.
Partners supporting the Step Outdoors festival include the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association, Northampton County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, Aqua-Duck and Service Electric Cable TV & Communications. For more information on the festival, visit www.steelstacks.org/stepoutdoors.