New wildlife festival takes root at Oakland Nature Preserve

The nature preserve’s inaugural event will feature flora, fauna and food.

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The Oakland Nature Preserve is hosting its first onsite festival Saturday, Sept. 24, and folks are invited to enjoy a day of experiencing natural Florida, said Jennifer Hunt, ONP director.

Nature Fest is the first solo festival at ONP, which has participated in joint heritage and wildlife festivals with the town of Oakland in the past.

“That’s been divided, so the flora and fauna side is now at the preserve, and there will be Oakland Heritage Day run by the town of Oakland in January,” Hunt said. “We are back in full swing with a new festival … focusing on the amazing plants and animals that surround us.”

This festival originally was scheduled for fall 2020 but was canceled because of the pandemic.

“This year, we’re able to do a true focus on the amazingness that is natural Florida,” Hunt said.

This will include an array of animals, such as skunks, snakes, turtles and the preserve’s opossums, Primrose and Petunia.

Setting up booths will be environmental partners such as Friends of Lake Apopka, Orange Audubon Society and Green Mountain Scenic Byway; as well as artists, clubs and other vendors with a focus on nature-inspired wares.

Programs will be offered throughout the day. ONP is celebrating the return of its Science Saturday programs, monthly science-based events for families and other interested individuals. The first program is Magical Hummingbirds, which will begin at 11 a.m. at the festival.

At noon, the Avian Reconditioning Center will showcase its raptors.

A special video tribute to the late Jim Thomas, an environmental crusader and founder of the preserve and FOLA, will begin at 1 p.m. ONP’s headquarters is named The Jim Thomas Environmental Education Center.

Plant presentations will be made by the Native Plant Society and the Bloom & Grow Garden Society, as well as one on permaculture landscape.

Hunt will conduct a guided hike on the upland trails, show off the restoration work being done on the drier trails and share the history of the preserve. Several other tours, including the Mindful Hike and Yoga program and all five Lake Apopka boat tours are filled.

Parking is free but will be limited, so Hunt recommends residents walk along the West Orange Trail to the preserve. September is Healthy Selfie Month with Healthy West Orange, she said, so folks who live in town can take their Healthy Selfie while walking to the festival.

All proceeds benefit ONP and its ongoing programs. Upcoming events include Pumpkin Glow Jack-o-lantern Trail, Pours at the Preserve and Bubbly on the Boardwalk.




Amy Quesinberry

Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.

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