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Admit it: Sometimes, the great outdoors isn't so great. More than a few of us, your doughty TRAVELER included, have had our comeuppance on a scree-ridden trail, or been humbled by the intricacies of a clinch knot at the end of a No. 9 hook.
Call it skill, call it competence, call it knowledge – whatever the term, you need it to meet the outdoors head-on. When you've got it, confidence follows, with delight not far behind.
So make plans to be in Oshkosh on the weekend of August 27-29 for the Ducks Unlimited Great Outdoors Festival. The three-day event held on the city's spacious EAA Convention Grounds offers hands-on experience for a variety of outdoor activities and skills.
Don't be misled by the sponsor's name. Although Ducks Unlimited itself does focus on the sport of waterfowl hunting, this festival encompasses outdoor experiences beyond the business end of a shotgun barrel, aiming to educate visitors on the need to preserve wildlife and protect habitat for the enjoyment of generations to come.
At different "sporting villages" within the festival grounds you can try out equipment, talk to experts, and take part in sessions on everything from gun cleaning, low-impact camping, duck calling and fly tying to waterfowl migration, wildlife art and wetland conservation. Never used a bow and arrow? Here's your chance to aim for Olympic-style targets. Imagined yourself scaling a cliff to get a better perspective on the landscape during a hike? Try climbing the rock wall, and you'll feel what it's like to find barely visible footholds on the way up. Test-drive off-road vehicles and learn about proper handling and safety. And see how accurate a shot you really are when the sporting clays start to fly.
Spend the weekend in Oshkosh to celebrate the outdoor lifestyle and hone your skills. Admission: Adults – $10 one day, $18 two days, $25 three days; children 6-12 – $5, $8, $12; children under 6 and dogs on a lead – free. See Ducks Unlimited for more details.
Wisconsin is indeed a many-faceted state. Consider the difficult choices you'll have to make over the first weekend of September:
Don't forget the Wilhelm Tell Festival. Since 1938, the good burghers of New Glarus have staged "Wilhelm Tell," the drama of Swiss independence; 1999's performances are scheduled for Sept. 4-6. The elaborate outdoor production is in English on Saturday and Monday; Sunday's performance is in German. 1-800-527-6838.
In Allenton, seven miles west of West Bend, concertina enthusiasts from around the globe will flock to play and polka during the 1999 World Concertina Congress Jamboree Festival, Sept. 3-5. Besides having a general all-around good whoop-de-doo, you can buy, sell and trade the instruments. (414) 629-5232.
Over in Prairie du Sac, more than 250 competitors will flip their chips and go for glory in the annual Wisconsin State Cow Chip Throw, Sept. 3-4. The competition is open to all. (608) 643-4317.