Discover family fun of Discovery Walk

Annual festival also includes bicycling and swimming activities

By Erin Middlewood, Columbian special projects reporter



If you go

What: International Discovery Walk Festival.

When: Registration is 8 a.m. to noon, Saturday, April 9.

Where: Hudson’s Bay High School, 1601 E. McLoughlin Blvd., Vancouver.

Cost: Anyone may walk, bike or swim for free. Participation medals and international volkssport credit are $10. International credit alone is $3 for each event.

Information:Discovery Walk

This weekend, a scaled-back International Discovery Walk Festival returns for its 15th year. The economic downturn didn’t spare the beloved celebration of walking. International participation fell last year, and so did sponsorships. Organizers are weary, and ready to hand on the baton.

Sound like bad news?

Not for local people.

For the first time, participation in the festival will be free.

“We wanted to provide a great introductory walking event for families and people in the local area,” said Wendy Bumgardner, a festival organizer.

Instead of taking a year off to recruit new organizers and rebuild the festival, she and other stalwart volunteers decided to cut the festival from three days to one and take fees only from those who want to buy a participation medal or International Volkssport Federation credits. The event won’t include long-distance walks, so it’s not sanctioned by the IML Walking Association this year.

Instead, the festival will stick with family-friendly 5- and 10-kilometer routes. The 10-kilometer route will go through downtown Vancouver, along the Waterfront Renaissance Trail and over the Vancouver Land Bridge to meet up with the 5-kilometer route and tour the Fort Vancouver area. Those who want to participate in a “try-athalon” can add a bike ride of 15 to 50 kilometers and a 300- to 600-meter swim at Propstra Aquatics Center.

Walkers will register at Hudson’s Bay High School, where they will also find balloon artists, jugglers, food and other entertainment.

The event coincides with a family weekend for the Washington Army National Guard’s 790th Chemical Company at the Vancouver Barracks, in which soldiers and their families plan to participate as in past years, said the Guard’s Capt. Keith Kosik. The 790th — about 120 soldiers — is headquartered in Vancouver. The Guard’s continued participation in the Discovery Walk Festival was a big reason organizers thought they could make a go of it this year, Bumgardner said. Festival organizers also have reached out to churches, Weight Watchers groups and other local organizations to invite them to participate, she said.

So even in its truncated form, the festival is likely to draw many walkers. Last year’s event attracted nearly 2,400 participants.