Editor’s note: Gimme 5 is a five-question interview on a topic of local interest.
What is the history behind the Chippewa Valley Nature Festival?
I was involved in creating a Migratory Bird Celebration in the Hudson area through Topical Wings. It was a very rewarding experience. I wanted to start a nature festival in the Chippewa Valley because it is my home and there is so much to enjoy of the natural world in our area. I was involved with the Gaylord Nelson Audubon Society, so I put the idea to Steve Betchkal, the GNAS president. He was all for the idea and with his support and so many others in the Chippewa Valley, the festival was born. The first year of the festival, I was overjoyed with the response of the experts in their field to lead field trips or make presentations. So many people graciously volunteered their time.
Why did organizers create such an event?
I have been a nature enthusiast all of my life. I feel healthiest in mind and body when I am walking in the woods or paddling a river or hiking in the mountains. My ultimate aim is for others to reach that same understanding. Through participation in the festival, people are exposed to quality outdoor experiences and learn interesting things about the natural world. If that leads to conservation efforts or developing an environmental ethic of respect for the earth, that is icing on the cake.
Can you describe generally what the Chippewa Valley Nature Festival entails and what you expect to be some of this year’s highlights?
Friday night kicks off with “All Things Connected” presented by the Minnesota Zoomobile. It will be a discussion of diversity with a live animal exhibit in attendance. A silent auction that is part of the evening offers a good time to mingle with other festival attendees.
Saturday presents numerous opportunities to learn about and experience the natural world around us. One can learn about garden insects or area snakes, as well as cultivating mushrooms and beginning beekeeping. Live birds will be a part of the ecosystem conversation led by The Raptor Education Group from Antigo. There are also several field opportunities by foot or canoe/kayak. Explore Hoffman Hills, the Dunnville Bottoms and Coon Fork Barrens Natural Area. Travel the Red Cedar and Chippewa River. Or descend 70 feet below ground by exploring Crystal Cave. Get close and personal to Karner Blue butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies. Bring your camera, and enhance your techniques while photographing in the field. Visit the James Newman Clark Bird Museum with expert birder Steve Betchkal.
Saturday evening is full of fun at the Duke and Dagger, where you can compete with other attendees in a game of bird trivia. British pub-style food and drink will be available for purchase.
The festival concludes on Sunday with an antique open-air train through the Tiffany Bottoms Wildlife Area.
Who is your target audience?
People of all ages and levels of experience. This is a family-friendly event.
What do you hope participants take home from their experiences at the festival?
To immerse themselves in nature, to learn and have new experiences. To enhance your natural knowledge. It is a wonderful way to connect with people who have similar interests.
Title: Gaylord Nelson Audubon Society board member and founder of the Chippewa Valley Nature Festival.
Talks about: The festival celebrating nature in the Chippewa Valley.
When: Friday through Sunday.
Where: The event is based at the UW-Stout Memorial Student Center, 302 10th Ave. E., Menomonie. Outdoor field trips take place at various Chippewa Valley locations.
Cost: Weekend pass-$35; Friday keynote-$5; all day Saturday-$25; Sunday train ride-$35. A child attends free with each paid adult.
Information and schedule: chippewavalleynaturefestival.com.