Some park systems find "Hunger Games" has spiked youth interest in survival and archery programs.
"The Hunger Games" may not have started the archery boom in Twin Cities parks, but the parks are capitalizing on the movie's popularity among tweens and teens by offering plenty of outdoor survival and archery classes.
"Compete with your fellow campers in fun archery games," says the Three Rivers Parks District website's description of its archery and outdoor camp. The camp at Cleary Lake Regional Park in Prior Lake offers "a full day of outdoor adventures with archery and exploring the woods and waters." Campers learn how to canoe, track animals and build woodland shelters.
CeCe Holmes, 12, recently joined the archery club at Three Rivers' rustic Near Wilderness Settlement in Baker Park Preserve in Maple Plain. She shoots with a dozen kids, ages 10 to 15, on Thursday evenings.
Last week she was out under a mostly blue sky honing the skill of her favorite movie heroine, Katniss Everdeen. Katniss, 16, is a crack shot with a longbow and sole survivor in "The Hunger Games."
"She shot the apple out of a pig's mouth [in a dining scene] and it stuck to the wall behind the game makers," CeCe said. Game makers are in the elite caste who enjoy watching Tributes, the deadly game's players, hunt each other down.
CeCe said a bow-hunting neighbor sparked her interest, but Katniss got her excited enough to take the eight-week class. It ends with a target-shooting tourney.
Archery "is really awesome once you get into it," CeCe said.
Several other youngsters attending the class said the movie prompted their interest in learning archery, said instructor Adam Sievert, a park naturalist who also works at area archery shops.
"I definitely have seen an increase since 'Hunger Games,'" Sievert said. More people are showing interest in the classic longbow as opposed to the modern compound bow with cams and pulleys that make the string easier to draw back, he said.
Sievert said he's enjoyed seeing youths who lack the natural ability for team sports like football or baseball be successful at archery.
Archery has been growing in Minnesota since at least 2005, when the Department of Natural Resources started "Archery in the Schools." The program, linked to a national effort, began with 50 schools and has jumped to 408 this year. The DNR has expanded the program, which offers matching grants to parks for equipment.
Dakota County Parks matched the DNR's $1,600 grant to buy 12 bows, 120 arrows and five bale targets last summer, said Krista Jensen, the parks' outdoor education coordinator.
"Then 'Hunger Games' came along and that really helped all those efforts," Jensen said. "We are planning classes for fall to capitalize on 'Hunger Games.'"
Jensen hasn't seen a jump in class sizes, but she said more tweens and early teenagers are signing up for archery.
Jensen said that Dakota County began full-day wilderness camps this year. Kids learn canoeing, plant and animal identification, compass and GPS orienteering, and how to build lean-tos.
Millions of readers have enjoyed the "Hunger Games" trilogy. Working with county libraries, the parks are developing a "Tribute" training class that will feature shelter building, outdoor cooking, fire starting and identifying edible plants, Jensen said.
"All our partners want to do 'Hunger Games' camps or programs," she said. Besides libraries, park partners include scouting groups, city parks and other outdoor-related groups.
Jensen hopes the Tribute class is ready to go before the "Hunger Games" sequel arrives. The movie is "a great lead-in to get people moving a bit," she said.
Jim Adams • 952-746-3283