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Nature’s Best By Elma Chapman - Events

Some schools are already back in session, but the summer festivals are still happening and shouldn’t be missed, particularly two local ones coming up.

This Saturday, Aug. 16, from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. in Middlebury you can enjoy Riverfest at Riverbend Park.  I helped with it last summer, and it’s great family fun. There will be hikes, kids' crafts and activities, kayak excursions on the Little Elkhart River, and a rain barrel auction, as well as food for sale and environmental exhibits. There will be a bird hike at 8 a.m. and a history hike at 9 a.m. when the rest of the activities start. 

The submerged log will be making a return visit. I helped with this last year and couldn’t imagine what I was getting into, but it turned out to be a reasonable exploration for kids. There was a large tube on the ground, decorated to look like a hollow log, complete with bark, knotholes, and a few branches. The “submerged” part was strictly imagination, but you had to “see” the log as half under water in a river. Kids were encouraged to crawl through the log and find creatures:  turtles, fish, bugs, etc. that would be in a log like that in the water. On the top of the log, which would be out of the water in our imaginations, they could find birds, more insects, snakes, frogs, and a few mammals. All of these “finds” were stuffed animals or plastic figures. Kids had a checklist to check off each creature as it was found. 

Some of the kids’ crafts this year will include making nature name plates (gluing dried natural materials to creatively spell out a name), making a sparkly dragonfly (using seed pods, sticks and glitter spray paint), painting wooden animal cutouts, or making a bat headband (bats are the featured critter at a 1 p.m. presentation).  There will also be a fish shocking exhibition at 10 a.m. where you can watch as the aquatic biologist for the City of Elkhart Public Works and Utility Department electrically shocks and collects fish from the Little Elkhart River. The fish will be placed in a tank for observation, weighed, measured, and then released back into the river. I watched last year and it was very interesting. At 11:30 a.m. there will be a program on nocturnal animals. 

Rain barrels are quite a big thing in Elkhart County. Various groups or individuals artistically decorate them and they are auctioned off as a fundraiser. A rain barrel is attached to your downspout and has a small tap near the bottom where you can attach a hose or watering can to water your garden or flower beds. This saves you from using city water or running your well pump, and it helps to conserve one of our most precious resources.

Saturday, Aug. 23, is another festival, this one at David Rogers Park in LaGrange County.  Come celebrate the history of LaGrange County and travel back to the days of the pioneers’ country fair. There are several 1800s-era log buildings from neighboring counties that have been moved to this location.  Demonstrators will be showing how the self-sufficient people of the 1800s made a lot of the goods they needed from locally available materials. There will be activities for all ages. The fun starts at noon and runs until 8 p.m. There is a fee of $2 per person, or $10 for groups. The village store sells items that would have been available in that time period, as well as a few more modern items. In the last several years there has been an auction, but this year the auction will be strictly baked goods. At 5 p.m. there will be a hog-calling contest, followed by a pie-eating contest, and at 6 p.m. you can swing your partner at the barn dance/folk dance. There will be musicians performing throughout the day, and puppet shows at 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. You even have the rare opportunity to see a flea circus and participate in a watermelon eating contest!  Learn about pioneer life in a very entertaining way.

I hope to see you at one or both of these festivals. They’re a great way to celebrate our local natural resources and our history.