Starting Sept. 21, central Pennsylvania will have the opportunity to live among Mother Nature and all that she has to offer when the inaugural Uitwaaien Bushcraft Gathering comes to Howard. Taking place at Curtin Village, this four-day event will host an array of workshops, seminars and demonstrations that detail and celebrate life in the wilderness.
Uitwaaien is defined as “taking a break outdoors to clear one’s head.” A lifelong lover of doing exactly that, Flemington resident Art Dawes created this event to share his passion for the beauty and usefulness that nature has provided since the dawn of time.
“I grew up in central Pennsylvania, and I remember coming home from school and just going right into the woods until dark,” Dawes said. “Once you are out there and are disconnected from the modern civilization that you’ve left behind, you begin to feel at peace and at ease with your surroundings. It’s great to be able to head out there and temporarily forget about everything that you’ve left behind.”
In addition to the various vendors hawking homemade jewelry, knives and other outdoor essentials, a major emphasis on the weekend revolves around wilderness survival. To compliment his own expertise, Dawes has called in Creek Stewart, host of The Weather Channel’s “SOS: How to Survive” and “Fat Guys in the Woods” as well as Dan Wowak, who was a contestant on the History Channel program, “Alone.” These two wilderness professionals will be on hand to talk about their experiences and offer further insight on how to make it out of the woods alive. However, attendees shouldn’t be intimidated by their resumes — there’s something at the Uitwaaien Bushcraft Gathering for everyone to appreciate.
“I’ve been to some survival trainings where the organizers try to simulate an actual survival situation, and that isn’t the kind of thing that I like to do,” Dawes said. “I want to keep all of this pretty laid back and the classes that I teach are quite stress-free. I’d rather people learn these skills in a relaxed environment first, and that’s the general theme that I want to have for the event. If people even just want to come and sit at their campsite all weekend and just hang out, that’s fine too.”
Given the Commonwealth’s diverse and rolling landscape, it’s no wonder that many of the presenters and merchants that will be attending the Uitwaaien Bushcraft Gathering are from Pennsylvania, including Wowak, who owns Coalcracker Bushcraft in Mahanoy City. Their outdoor pedigree is a reflection of their environment, and they are proud to be spending time with other Pennsylvanians in their natural habitat.
“There a lot of great forest systems around us and we are a very outdoorsy kind of state, especially right here in central Pennsylvania,” Dawes said. “We have the ideal environment right in front of us for people to take part in all sorts of these outdoor activities.”
Perhaps what’s most unique about this event will be the myriad perspectives that everyone will bring with them. The weekend will allow folks to obtain a collection of varied opinions that will ensure that they are well-equipped to handle any excursion into the wild.
“The weekend is jammed back with all different kinds of activities,” Dawes said. “We will be having a variety of different skills that people can learn.”
Dawes also notes that these sorts of outdoor events are rare in the Northeast, and he is delighted to be bringing one of this caliber to his community. He hopes that those attending the Uitwaaien Bushcraft Gathering will form a connection to their past and reignite something deep inside of them that may have been very close to being extinguished.
“These are the types of skills that our ancestors had to use on a day-to-day basis,” Dawes said. “I think that we are now at a time where people are beginning to realize that some of these traditions are being lost and they want to get back to the roots of learning these skills.”
IF YOU GO
- What: Uitwaaien Bushcraft Gathering
- When: 1 p.m. Sept. 21-24
- Where: Curtin Village, 251 Curtin Village Road, Howard
- Info: pagathering.pa wildernessskills.com