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Nature Lovers Find Love on the Fly

by Carrie Beilke

Romance was in the air Wednesday, February 11, along with a sense of caring for the community as the Twisted Fork hosted the Urban Ecology Center’s fundraiser, Speed Dating for Nature Lovers. Speed dating has become a popular alternative for busy singles to meet each other in a short period of time. Participants talk in five minute “mini-dates” and decide whom they would like to meet again. If there is mutual interest, each participant receives the other’s e-mail address after the event. With Speed Dating for Nature Lovers, the Urban Ecology Center put its own spin on the dating trend, gathering people who share a mutual love of the outdoors. The event also was a fundraiser for the center, which provides environmental education and community programs in Riverside Park. The lights were dimmed, tasty appetizers were provided by the restaurant, glasses were filled, and small candles lit up the windows of the Twisted Fork, creating a cozy atmosphere for this unique date-a-thon. The group was a mix of ages, dressed in both business casual and relaxed with jeans. Before the event even started, people were mixing and mingling. Discussions ranged from downtown development to volunteering opportunities. Initially the atmosphere was a bit chaotic as singles tried to find their first “dates.” But as the night progressed, everyone seemed fairly relaxed as they learned to deal with the limitations of a five minute date. Conversations flowed easily. For those who were stumbling, sample questions were provided to encourage conversation, ranging from “What’s your favorite outdoor sport?” to “What natural wonder would you most like to visit?” One speed-dater, Pete, chalked up the success of the event to the fact that many people were affiliated somehow with the center, whether through a friend or as someone now interested in attending future events. Pete added that people seemed “approachable and genuine, and not taking it too seriously.” Singles were split into two age groups, although the entire group of singles met and mingled before and after the event. “People really seemed to enjoy themselves,” organizer Darrell Smith said afterward. “It was a lively atmosphere and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive.” According to the final tally, 51 people took part in the event and 80% received at least one match. No word yet on whether there was any true love out there, but participants received their matches by e-mail in time for Valentine’s Day. One couple clinked glasses in cheers as they separated at the end of their mini-date, perhaps as a sign of things to come. The Urban Ecology Center hopes to put on more events for outdoor-loving singles in the area. Interested individuals can contact Darrell Smith at the Urban Ecology Center, 414/964-8505.
by Carrie Beilke