Naming the official Pure Michigan ice cream flavor of Michigan state parks? Tasty work if you can get it, and the 2012 Outstanding Outdoor Kids did just that.

Selected by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), this year’s winners – Lexi Loehfelm, 11, of Ada; Noah Ekdom, 12, of Roscommon; and Jimmy McGrath, 15, of Carleton – let their taste buds do the judging Feb. 21 when they, along with Meijer Corporate Research Chef Ray Sierengowski, picked the official Pure Michigan ice cream flavor of Michigan state parks: Pure Michigan Caramel Apple.

According to WDIV-TV, Detroit, representatives from the DNR, Hudsonville Ice Cream, Pure Michigan, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) and Meijer gathered with friends and family of the judges for the event, which took place at the Livonia Meijer store. While the judges deliberated over the winning flavor, guests took in live Dixieland music, enjoyed free samples of Hudsonville ice cream from the mobile Hudsonville café and learned about Michigan’s many outdoor recreation options.

The DNR joined with Hudsonville Ice Cream and Pure Michigan to launch the “Create a Flavor” contest in January, and interest was immediate. More than 3,000 flavor suggestions were submitted, ranging from Tahquamenon Falls Root Beer Sundae to Hex Hatch Jubilee, each evoking the sights, sounds and nostalgia of getting away from it all in Michigan’s great outdoors.

“This contest has been an exciting partnership with Hudsonville and Pure Michigan, and a creative way to get people thinking about recreation-based tourism,” said DNR Director Rodney Stokes. “Just about everyone has favorite memories of time spent at our state parks. Now they can enjoy an ice cream that sparks those same good feelings and memories.”

Attendees of the Pure Michigan Governor’s Conference on Tourism, March 25-27, will enjoy Pure Michigan Caramel Apple at the conference’s Stars Dinner.

Hudsonville Director of Sales and Marketing Bruce Kratt said the “Create a Flavor” contest marked the start of a campaign that will run throughout the summer with a statewide RV ice cream tour to help promote Recreation 101, the DNR’s popular outreach/education program at Michigan state parks. Meijer will serve as the official retail partner in this campaign, set to begin in early May.

“We will distribute samples of the winning flavor – the official ice cream of Michigan state parks and Pure Michigan – to Meijer and other retail outlets and ice cream parlors throughout Michigan and the Midwest, as well as at stops along our summer ice cream tour,” he explained. “What better way to welcome summer in Michigan!”

Meijer Corporate Research Chef Ray Sierengowski said he was excited to join the three Outstanding Outdoor Kids on the ice cream judging panel.

“I had so much fun partnering with Hudsonville Ice Cream and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources on this creative event that helps promote our fantastic state,” Sierengowski said. “And what better way to celebrate than with ice cream.”

Michael A. Finney, president and CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), praised the unique partnership that made this venture possible.

“Pure Michigan focuses on the people, places, opportunities and treasures that are uniquely Michigan,” he said. “Meijer, Hudsonville and several state agencies found a fun way to connect people to our wealth of recreation opportunities, while embracing the unique taste of Michigan.”

“We are excited to support ventures promoting both our state’s rich food and agricultural heritage as well as our tourism industry,” said Keith Creagh, director, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. “Create a Flavor’ shines a spotlight on simple, homegrown Michigan pleasures: food, family, and fun in the great outdoors.”

A key goal of this campaign is to build awareness of the DNR’s Recreation 101 program and Recreation Passport.

“Rec 101” is a series of free, intro-to programs with all the gear and expert instruction included. The RV ice cream tour will also highlight the Recreation Passport – Michigan residents’ $10 ticket to Michigan state parks, recreation areas and boat launches.

The Recreation Passport (which also supports state forest campgrounds, trails and historic treasures and provides grants to neighborhood parks) can be purchased by Michigan residents at a Secretary of State venue when renewing a vehicle registration. By purchasing the Passport through the Secretary of State, residents can also take advantage of the Passport Perks program that offers discounts at hundreds of local businesses throughout the state. Learn more at www.michigan.gov/stateparks.