By Thalen Zimmerman (originally published in the Alexandria Echo Press)
Outdoor Fest took off with a bang on Saturday, July 31, at the Alexandria Shooting Park by putting the fun in fundraising. The event featured food trucks, craft vendors, trap shooting, a bean-bag tournament, gun raffle, demonstrations, and live music.
Outdoor Fest was born after covid restrictions prevented them from hosting their annual fundraising banquet in 2020, an event that had been going on for the last 30 years. Bell Bank and Alomere Health sponsored the festival.
“We wanted to try something new and out of the box,” said Chris Kleine, president of the Viking Sportsmen for the last two years.
This new event provided entertainment for all ages while raising money to promote outdoor conservation and education, such as the annual Youth Outdoor Activity Day, wildlife food plots, fish stocking programs, and the local Let’s Go Fishing chapter that helps get seniors outdoors.
Demonstrations held throughout the park gave even goers a chance to practice their archery skills, shooting a black-powder flintlock muzzleloader and learning a thing or two about 18th-century weaponry from an actual pirate.
Jingles, a pirate from Farwell, taught and demonstrated pirate history, swordplay, knife and ax throwing, and breaking the sound barrier with a swish of his whip in front of his 18th- century tent with a sign that read “PieRat.”
Jingles, whose real name is Aaron Hurlbert, spent four years in the U.S. Army as a land-based radio communication specialist interested in history and weaponry and had a love for pirates. Hurlbert began his pirating at Minnesota Renaissance Festival 25 years ago and eventually started to partake in rendezvousing (basically like the renaissance festival but for long periods). Hurlbert lived out of a tent for eight month in Iowa, part of the experience taking place through the winter.
“It got to negative 20 outside, but thanks to my three-dog stove, I was able to get it up to 100 degrees in my tent,” said Hurlbert.
Hurlbert has been doing demonstrations now for the last six years. He teaches people the history of pirates and 18th-century weaponry while staying in character. Given a refreshing take on a history lesson.
“If it is a weapon from the 1700s, I know all about it and how to use it,” said Hurlbert, “I have always loved pirates, and this is how I am choosing to retire.”
Another person demonstrating older weapons was Dennis Johnson, a board member at Kalon Prep Academy. Johnson became interested in the fur trading era while working as a history teacher in South Dakota and decided to give it a shot making and selling handmade crafts himself. Johnson’s booth featured handmade fur and leather goods and black powder flintlock muzzleloader rifles, which attendees could fire at targets downrange. Johnson calls his business “Sequoya Products” after Chief Sequoya, Sequoya taught his tribe how to read and write.
“These demonstrations allow me to sell my work while also giving history lessons,” said Johnson.
To learn more about the Viking Sportsmen Club, visit www.vikingsportsmen.org.