Opportunities to learn about local plants and animals will combine with live music and animal demonstrations as NatureFest returns to Runnymede Park in Herndon this Sunday for its 11th annual presentation.
"With NatureFest, we want people to get the opportunity to realize that [Runnymede Park] is not just the area around the parking lot, it's a 58-acre park," said Dave Swan, president of the Friends of Runnymede Park, and chairman of the NatureFest planning committee. "Runnymede Park is such a diverse undeveloped plot of land — it's something that a lot of towns around us wish that they had."
This year's NatureFest, which is presented free of cost, is expected to match last year's attendance of more than 1,200 if weather permits, Swan said.
The annual celebration's goal is to teach guests — especially children — about the intricacies of nature in Runnymede Park. Some of the 12 learning stations that will be set up throughout the park include presentations of honeybees, bats, local archaeology, farming animals and the fish of the Sugarland Run Stream.
The festival is a perfect chance for anyone who may have passed the park on previous locations to see it first hand said Grace Wolf, president of the Council for the Arts of Herndon. Wolf and her organization are working alongside Friends of Runnymede Park to offer children with a "bug box" arts and crafts project at NatureFest.
"One of the things about the park is that not a lot of people have really gone out and seen it," she said. "For all those people that say, 'well, we'll go later,' it's the perfect chance to see one of the greatest undiscovered assets that the town has."
NatureFest will also mark the presentation of Herndon as a "Tree City USA," a distinction conferred by the National Arbor Day Foundation to communities that meet certain guidelines of conservation and tree protection.
The presentation of the designation will be capped with a live performance from local folk band Flint Hollow.
PLANS FOR THE PROPOSED Runnymede Park Nature Center will be explained by its proponents Sunday to anyone interested in the site.
"In essence, NatureFest is something that can happen every day in a small way at the Nature Center," Swan said. "It's a great opportunity for [visitors] to see for themselves what the Nature Center could offer and what is possible for the future."
The festival is also an opportunity for people who might feel uncomfortable about certain things in nature like bees, bats or snakes, said Town of Herndon's community forester John Dudzinsky, who works with Friends of Runnymede Park to organize NatureFest.
Some people might be afraid of certain things in nature that they don't understand and this gives them a good chance to see a lot of things up close and helps them get rid of those fears," said Dudzinsky. "You can go through all the stations and learn something about everything — and put yourself at ease."
Through all of the issues surrounding the festival, Swan said one thing stands out above all the rest as the most important.
"It's really all for the kids," he said. "You'll see them dragging their parents around by their arm to all the different stations — they really have a great time."
"It's a great time for everyone there."