“Yellow Smoke Park is absolutely gorgeous, right now,” said Crawford County Naturalist Kelly Sonnichsen. “The leaves are beautiful and the tall grasses are starting to turn a red-brown color.”
The fall colors are just one reason to visit the park this weekend. Another is the “Down at the Farm” fall festival that will take place from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Yellow Smoke Park Nature Center on Saturday.
“It’s our family event for the fall,” Sonnichsen said.
The event is geared for kids, with lots of games and a bounce house.
Following the “Down on the Farm” theme, a play area will be set up with a barn, tractors, trucks and corn.
Denison High School (DHS) students will run the games.
DHS cheerleaders will be on hand to paint faces and sell cotton candy.
Kids in costume will win a prize.
“We have candy bags for everybody that wears a costume when they come out,” Sonnichsen said.
Tickets are five for $1. Most games cost two tickets.
“At each game, if they win, they get tickets and they can take those tickets and buy prizes in our prize house,” she said.
Prizes in the prize house include Halloween costumes and makeup, Halloween decorations and stuffed animals.
“The more games they play the better prizes they can win,” Sonnichsen said.
Kids can frost cookies and make sand art in the nature center.
For five tickets, visitors may decorate a pumpkin with stickers – and then take the pumpkin home.
“I think we have 150 pumpkins,” Sonnichsen said.
Two county pickups will be used to provide hayrides around the park.
“It loops down to the campground and comes back up the hill,” Sonnichsen said.
Saturday will be a good day for a tour of the park because it’s supposed to be one of the last warm days of the year.
“We’re hoping it is,” she said.
The main event for the festival will be the release of a hawk into the wild.
“We’ve been doing that for the last five years,” Sonnichsen said.
An injured hawk that was rehabilitated at SOAR (Save Our Avian Resources) will be released.
A naturalist from SOAR will talk about the injured bird and about its rehabilitation program.
Everyone will get a chance to see the hawk before it is released.
“We’ll all be sitting on the hill in front of the nature center and she’ll get it out and show it and talk about it,” Sonnichsen said.
One lucky visitor, whose name will be chosen from a bucket, will get to let the hawk go.
The hawk will be released at 2 p.m.
Photographer Ashlee Brus will take family portraits at the nature center during the event.
Walk-ins are welcome – and Brus is also taking reservations.
Hay bales and pumpkins will be set up as photography props or backgrounds, Sonnichsen said.
Following the conclusion of the fall festival, kids up to 12 years old may go trick or treating in the campground from 5 to 6 p.m.
Free camping on Saturday night will be provided for campers who decorate and provide candy for up to 300 kids.
The campground road will close at 4:45 p.m. for trick or treating.
Sonnichsen said the fall event has been going on for about 20 years.
With the closing of Uncle Leroy’s Pumpkin Patch three years ago, the nature center wants to offer something similar so Denison residents don’t have to travel a long ways, she said.
“Come and enjoy a day of fun and be out in nature,” Sonnichsen said. “It’s going to be beautiful.”
For more information, contact the nature center at 712-263-3409.