GAMBIER — Animals and hands-on nature activities feature prominently in this year’s Earth Day Festival, held Saturday, April 22, from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Brown Family Environmental Center, 9781 Laymon Road.
This year’s theme for the free festival, “Keep It Wild,” is a nod to the abundance of animals and animal-focused activities expected at the event. Representatives from the Columbus Zoo, the Ohio Wildlife Center, Ohio Bird Sanctuary and the Midwest Biodiversity Institute will bring birds, small mammals, reptiles, crawfish and more to interact with guests.
“We’re hoping that having these close encounters with the animals will help to create a strong connection to nature,” said BFEC Manager Noelle Jordan.
An activity sponsored by the Mount Vernon Public Library allows guests to sample edible bugs, such as dry-roasted mealworms. (For hungry festival-goers interested in purchasing more traditional fare, the food truck Trucking Delicious will be on site.)
Guests also will be able to build bluebird boxes, bat houses and bug hotels that they can take home to help wildlife in their backyards. In an event coordinated by the Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalists, guests can dissect pellets made of bones, feathers and other indigestible material regurgitated by owls after they consume meals.
The Ohio State University Extension Master Gardeners, Knox County Parks, and SPI, the science-based children’s organization in nearby Mount Vernon, also will sponsor hands-on activities. Yellow Flower, a Knox County-based Native American storyteller, will share animal tales. Matt Sullivan ’99 and Mark Sims will provide live music from 2-4 p.m., and student musicians will play from 4-5 p.m.
The weekend’s festivities continue with the 11th annual Earth Day Challenge Half-Marathon and 4-Miler on Sunday, April 23. Starting at 8 a.m. at the Kenyon Athletic Center, runners will race through campus and Gambier, proceeding onto the Kokosing Gap Trail for the half marathon. Participants will receive a technical race shirt, a commemorative mug, a tree seedling and post-race refreshments.
Other events held around the Earth Day weekend highlight Kenyon’s and Gambier’s dedication to the natural resources in Knox County.
On Tuesday, April 18, at 7 p.m. in the Wright Center, 400 S. Main St., a panel of Knox County residents will discuss the development and use of alternative energy. This event is part of the “Visits” series that facilitates discussions between Kenyon and the Knox County community about the nature of life in Knox County.
On Friday, April 21, Gambier celebrates the 10th year of the village being named a Tree City USA. Community members will join students from Wiggin Street Elementary School and Kenyon at 11 a.m. at the Gambier Community Center, 115 Meadow Lane, to plant trees in a nearby park.
Kokosing Nature Preserve rounds out the weekend with a presentation on green burial and local land conservation Monday, April 24, at 7 p.m. The event will be held, rain or shine, at the preserve, 10620 Quarry Chapel Road, and will include an optional tour of the site. Kokosing Nature Preserve recently was verified as a conservation burial ground by the Green Burial Council. The site is the former Tomahawk Golf Course which served as a popular recreation spot for decades..