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Make plans now to get in on the fun at Penn’s Cave

CENTRE HALL — Whether or not March comes in like a lion, the first weekend of the month is a sure sign that consistently warmer weather is on the way.

That means fishing, spring gobbler hunting, camping and family picnics.

With that in mind, there is no better time to register for the largest outdoors event of its kind — the Great American Outdoor Picnic. A family oriented conservation-based event, it is held on the grounds of Penn’s Cave and Wildlife Park in Centre Hall.

This year’s fifth-annual picnic is Saturday, June 22, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Purchase of a $100 raffle ticket admits two adults and unlimited guests age 17 and younger. In addition to admission to the grounds, the ticket is good for food and the drawings from noon to 3 p.m. for 71 prizes with a total value of more than $37,000, a grand prize of $5,000 in cash and unlimited activities for adults and children and seminars.

Sponsored by the Wildlife for Everyone Foundation and the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen and Conservationists, those who purchase a ticket a www.pfsc.org by April 1 receive $25 in tickets for the Day-of-Event Bucket Raffle.

In previous years the free activities included, but were not limited to, fly fishing lessons, a BB gun shoot, archery lessons, trapping demonstrations, dog training and wildlife exhibits. In addition, the first 50 youngster to register get to build bluebird boxes and there is free primitive tent/RV camping — without hookups — for early arrivals.

Founded in 2004, it is the mission of the WFEF to promote wildlife conservation and education in Pennsylvania. It provides all wildlife and outdoors enthusiasts with a way to show their commitment through much-needed financial support for wildlife conservation efforts and education.

WFEF was organized to support important habitat and other critical projects that were in need of funding. Since its inception, it has raised millions of dollars to support projects including: Wildlife and wetland habitat improvements; creek and lake restorations; Seedlings for Schools programs; student wildlife scholarships; educational outreach; and many grassroots projects.

It is committed to maintaining habitat for the 480 species of birds and mammals in additional to the fisheries in Pennsylvania. Information about the organization, including projects and fund-raising events, can be found online at www.wildlifeforever.org.

Formerly known as the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, the PFSC has a new name, but the same core values of being the No. 1 sportsmen’s advocate organization in Pennsylvania. PFSC leadership in Harrisburg understands sportsmen lack the time to deal with anti-hunters and legislators and are a daily presence at the State Capitol with full-time “boots on the ground” in the halls of the state Capitol.

It is the mission of the PFSC to protect and conserve Pennsylvania’s natural resources, outdoors heritage and Second Amendment rights. Members receive email updates of issues facing sportsmen, ant the activities can be followed on he PFSC Facebook page.

While at the picnic visitors have the opportunity to take the 90-minute, guided Farm-Nature-Wildlife Tour given by bus through the Penn’s Cave grazing pastures, mountain trails and forests or the 50-minute tour of Penn’s Cave, the only cave in Pennsylvania on the National Register of Historic Places.

On the wildlife tour such iconic North American animals as bears, wolves, elk, deer, bobcats, bison, longhorn cattle, mustangs and bighorn sheep can be seen. Also, it is possible to catch a glimps of Penn’s Cave famous mountain lion on the tour.

In the cave guides explain how dripping water has sculpted magnificent flowstone, curtains, cascades and draperies against a background of pillars and gigantic columns.

Both tours are designed to be entertaining and educational, and even native Pennsylvanians are certain to learn something new about the geology, biology and geography of the center of our state. There are 48 steps leading to the cave’s main entrance, which is not handicapped accessible, and bringing a sweater or jacket is recommended as the cave’s temperature is 52 degrees year-round.

So, now is the time for outdoors enthusiasts to jump start their picnic spirit and make plans to attend the Great Outdoor Picnic.

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Doyle Dietz is a member of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association.

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