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Health, Science & Environment

Inaugural tree hugging competition draws nature lovers to Lake Hope State Park

Tom Proulx

Nature lovers will practice what they preach when they gather Saturday at Lake Hope State Park in southeast Ohio for an inaugural tree hugging competition. The idea came from a similar event held in Finland in 2020.

“I thought that really fit into what I was trying to achieve here at the state park. It sounded really fun,” said Kaylin Callander, naturalist at Lake Hope State Park in Vinton County.

Callander says four events headline the competition, including speed hugging, biggest hug, most dedicated and freestyle.

"For speed hugging participants will have one minute to hug as many trees as they can for at least 5 seconds,” said Callander.

Biggest hug will require measurements for how close fingertips reach around a tree. Callander said nature enthusiasts are encouraged to use their creativity for freestyle with original poems and storytelling. Winners will receive a wooden medallion.

“It's really open to interpretation. I think the international winner actually proposed to a tree,” said Callander. “So that was pretty unique.”

Callander said she knows the event can sound bizarre to some people who put a negative connotation to the phrase “tree hugger.” “I would tell them that they are probably the ones that most need to come and hug a tree,” said Callander.

Callander hopes to spread the event to other state parks. "I do understand that this sounds, you know, it's kind of a wacky idea, but, you know, coming out of the pandemic, when people needed to feel connection with each other and couldn't and then went out into nature and could feel connection with nature, you know, on this grander scale, that's kind of what I'm going for,” said Callander.

Health, Science & Environment Treestree hugging competition
Debbie Holmes has worked at WOSU News since 2009. She has hosted All Things Considered, since May 2021. Prior to that she was the host of Morning Edition and a reporter.