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“How-To” plan an outdoor event

Are you thinking about planning an outdoor event? Wondering what factors to consider? Not sure where to start? Well have no fear, GMPT is here! Thanks to Stearns County Parks Operations Coordinator Sarah Weed, we’ve provided step-by-step advice based on a recent outdoor event organized by the Stearns County Parks Department. See below for Sarah’s “How-To” guide in planning an outdoor event.

Here’s a snapshot of how we planned the Stearns County Moonlight Ski Event hosted at Quarry Park and the factors we consider when planning for future events.

Phase 1: Planning

Choose your park

                → Choose your date

                                → Choose your event

When planning your outdoor event, it is important to consider the central activity or purpose of your event. We chose Quarry Park & Nature Preserve for the Moonlight Ski because there are over 4 miles of lit ski trails, making it an ideal location for avid skiers. For our next event, we’re organizing a Moonlight Hike at Warner Lake County Park because of the 3 miles of walking trail, which provides more hiking opportunity as Quarry Park only has about 1 mile of winter hiking trail.

Phase 2: Outreach

→ Check with local outfitters/outdoor shops to inquire about equipment rentals for the event   

→ Check with local shops for donations as “door prizes”

We reserved Prairie Woods ELC because they were able to bring about 45 sets of cross-country skis and a dozen kick sleds. Stearns County Parks Department borrowed outdoor tents to use as information and snack booths from the Stearns County Soil & Water Conservation District. For our “door prizes,” we looked to our local outfitters — Fitzharris and Revolution Cycle & Ski — who donated gift cards. Other contributions came from Second Street Coffee — who donated ground coffee — and Wildwood Maple Syrup — who donated different maple syrup products. We made these “door prizes” available for the winners to pick up later this month. We are looking into retailers in the city for donations for our next event in Clearwater, MN.

Phase 3: Publicity

→ Social media

    → Local radio stations

         → Ask for volunteers

             → Promote the shops that donated the “door prizes”

To begin advertising our event, Stearns County Park Director Ben Anderson was interviewed on-air with a few of our local radio stations to discuss the details. We asked the Nordic Ski Club of Central Minnesota to give event information at their monthly meetings and on their website. In order to spread the word even further, Stearns County Parks Department and Stearns County used their Facebook pages, websites, and bulletins to advertise the event. For our next event, the Park Staff anticipates a similar radio interview for the Moonlight Hike at Warner Lake County Park.

Phase 4: Host Event

The Moonlight Ski event was sponsored by Stearns County Parks Department and the Nordic Ski Club of Central Minnesota. We estimated about 900 – 1,000 visitors attended. After about a month of planning to ensure everything went smoothly, we had perfect weather for the nighttime event. We scheduled the event to take place from 5pm – 8pm at Quarry Park & Nature Preserve, and everything was disassembled and packed up by about 9pm.

The Moonlight Hike at Warner Lake County Park will be sponsored by the Stearns County Parks Department and the Stearns County Public on Friday, February 24, 2023, from 5pm – 8pm.

Other things to consider:
→ Have a back-up date if the weather is too cold
→ Evaluate your ability to make more room for parking, if necessary
→ Depending on the amount of set-up, you may not need volunteers

If you have any questions about planning your own outdoor event, feel free to contact GMPT at