Great Outdoor Weekends! A Green Umbrella Success Story

June 12, 2017 4:30 PM | Anonymous

Great Outdoor Weekends! A Green Umbrella Success Story

Dozens of active events in nature, hosted by the major outdoor-oriented organizations in the region, all free — it was a huge hit right from the beginning.

The idea came from the Cincinnati Nature Center. They modeled it on Arts Sampler Weekend, sponsored by the Fine Arts Fund (now ArtsWave). With permission, they (sort of) copied it and called it Great Outdoor Weekend, a community-wide showcase of outdoor recreation and education.

The first GOW, in September 2004, featured about 100 events at three dozen locations across the Tri-State Region. Planned as an all-volunteer effort, the need for some kind of responsible management quickly became evident. In ensuing years, the Nature Center, Cincinnati Zoo, and Hamilton County Parks (now Great Parks) took turns with the job. Participants grew toward 5,000.

After the 2009 event, Great Outdoor Weekend was in trouble.  Despite continuing and growing popularity, the original lead organizations were finding the effort burdensome. Without long-term commitment by a reliable presenter, the entire thing seemed about to die.

Green Umbrella took on the challenge, beginning in 2010. A volunteer manager stepped forward. A hired coordinator, sponsors, and more volunteers joined the effort. GOW went on again that year, with 45 organizations hosting an estimated 6,000 participants.

Green Umbrella does its work through Action Teams, organized to drive progress on specific sustainability issues.  The Outdoor Action Team, focused on outdoor recreation, embraced GOW as a project beginning in 2012.  As Green Umbrella grew in organizational strength, its staff took over the management. A member organization, Cincinnati Wild Flower Preservation Society, came forward to provide major continuing financial support.

Today Great Outdoor Weekend continues to provide opportunities for children and adults to sample the best outdoor recreation and nature awareness programs in our region. Three partners make the event happen every September — Green Umbrella staff, volunteers from the Outdoor Action Team, and the member organizations that host events. Many organizations find GOW a valuable benefit of their membership, a way to promote themselves and attract new supporters.

The success and long-term stability of this important community event illustrate the power of Collective Impact.  This disciplined approach brings organizations and individuals together around a common vision, reinforcing one another’s efforts. The resulting collaboration can produce results far surpassing efforts from individual organizations on their own.

Great Outdoor Weekend in 2017 will offer more than 120 events at about 50 locations in three states, with participation anticipated to exceed 10,000. We believe this is the largest free showcase for outdoor activities in the United States.  Check it out at

Plans call for more events that will expand appeal to new audiences and all ages. More activities in urban areas and accessibility by public transit will open Great Outdoor Weekend to underserved citizens.

The last weekend in September is Great Outdoor Weekend — now a signature event of Green Umbrella!

Written by Bob Temple, longtime member of Green Umbrella's Board of Trustees.


Green Umbrella is the leading alliance working to maximize the environmental sustainability of Greater Cincinnati. We drive collaboration to fuel measurable improvements in key areas of sustainability. Our vision is to have the region recognized as one of the top 10 most sustainable metro areas in the nation by 2020. For more information or to become a member, please visit

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