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NatureFest Goes Virtual

Teaching children how to build birdhouses. Courtesy photos.

Joan Rech

NatureFest is an enjoyable and educational event sponsored by Friends of Moreau Lake State Park (just north of Saratoga Springs, NY). “Friends” is a non-profit group that sponsors activities and in general supports the park. NatureFest is their biggest event. Non-profits and government agencies provide information on sustainability, renewable energy, raptor rehabilitation, and Lyme disease to name a few topics. Activities for kids include pumpkin painting, birdhouse building, and rope making. And, of course, there are animals – rescue dogs, the park’s reptiles and we hope, raptors. With 50 exhibitors side-by-side and 1500 to 2000 attendees, NatureFest as usual would not be possible in a pandemic year. Thinking outside the box (or, in this case, beyond the beach) was necessary, and with some trepidation “Friends” decided to attempt an online event. Fortunately, one of the members is tech-savvy, and she quickly claimed the website name, NatureFest2020.org.

NatureFest 2019 showcased the bag monster

“Friends” then advised prior-years’ exhibitors about the 2020 plans and asked if they might submit a video or presentation. Since 2016, “Friends” has focused on waste reduction with the goal of making NatureFest a zero-waste event. In 2019, 72.8% of the total waste was diverted from landfills. NY’s Department of Environmental Conservation has partnered with the group, and their Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle group offered to record a plastics recycling demonstration and provide links and resources. The Adirondack Mountain Club suggested links to their “Trailside Talks with ADK,” including “Hiking with Dogs,” “How to Pack with a Bear Canister,” “Water Crossing Awareness” and other videos. Sustainable Saratoga chimed in with a backyard composting video, and Crandall Library (Glens Falls) responded positively. So did the Lyme Disease Network, NYSERDA, and Wilton Wildlife and Preserve, and more responses are coming in each day.

But a big part of NatureFest is animals. In past years, a rescue group brought live raptors and released a rehabilitated bird on the beach to the excitement of onlookers. “Friends” members offered to film rescued animals at the facility. Park staff thought of a slideshow of animals encountered by park rangers, and another member will record nighttime sounds at the park. The resident reptile specialist is hoping to record turtles hatching (which occurs in September around the time of NatureFest). Another park ranger does a popular fish fillet and fry (of park-caught fish), and he plans an online demonstration of the process – not as tasty but more informative.

In 2019, 72.8% of the event’s total waste was diverted from landfills.

What started as “maybe we can do this” has grown in size and enthusiasm each day. NatureFest2020.org will be available on September 12 (the pre-pandemic date of the live event). “Friends” invites you to visit NatureFest virtually this year and we hope all can join us in person in 2021.

For information, contact Nancy Dwyer, NatureFest Chair, at ndwyer12@gmail.com or the author at runner1930@hotmail.com

NatureFest has a website at https://naturefest2020.org/.

Joan Rech is part of the New York G.E.T. distribution team and enjoys visiting Canada.

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