Monday, September 30, 2013

This festival is for the birds!

Simply Living
I’m looking forward to the 2nd Annual Wings and Wildflowers Festival, which is set for Oct. 4 through Oct. 6 at Hickory Point Park in Tavares. Last year, I went to the festival for a few hours and came home with several wildflower plants that I had wanted to add to my garden for quite a while.

I didn’t make time last year to attend any of the field trips or workshops, but this year I hope to participate in several. The festival offers more than 100 programs, the majority at no charge. There are kayak, canoe and pontoon trips, guided walks to see birds, butterflies and Florida native plants, photography workshops, how-to presentations and a wide variety of educational and hands-on activities geared to children and families.

Florida scrub jay

Among the events in which attendees can participate is a field trip to see the rare Florida scrub jay, birds that exist in only a few parts of the state, including parts of Lake County. They can watch Swamp Girl Adventure shows, walk through a butterfly enclosure and learn how and when to plant a wildflower garden.

Black-eyed Susans

Keynote speakers include James Currie, host and producer of the popular adventure birding show, Nikon’s Birding Adventures on NBC Sports, and birding expert Jeffrey Gordon an author, photographer, speaker and tour leader who is the president of the American Birding Association. Forty-four other local experts are also slated to lead presentations, talks and tours.

James Currie

Jeffrey Gordon

I’m glad the county, which sponsors the event through Lake County Economic Development and Tourism Department, has chosen to focus attention on the many natural wonders that surround us every day. It’s easy to take for granted our area’s uniquely hilly topography, glistening waterways and diverse natural resources. We may live in Lake County, but we often overlook the small creatures and plants that share our humble slice of Florida terrain. While there are plenty of venues for sporting events, shopping trips and civic activities, the Wings and Wildflower Festival provides a unique opportunity for native plants, butterflies, birds and other wildlife to take center stage.

Zebra longwing on native porterweed

Last year, I attended more as an afterthought than a planned excursion. This year will be different. I will be going to the festival to gain knowledge but also to have fun. I want to surround myself with beauty in the form of plants and wildlife, and I am going so I can be among others who share my love for nature and value the preservation of wildlife and wild areas.

There is no fee to drive through the gates at Hickory Point, get out of the car and walk around the vendor’s area. There is no cost to attend most of the programs, workshops, field trips and other festival offerings. The only investment one needs to make is a willingness to take time to prioritize nature and appreciate the often underappreciated wonders of our everyday life.

Last year, I invested a few hours of time and gained several new wildflowers, which all are thriving in their new homes. I have no idea what treasures I’ll return with this time, but I’m confident the outing will be time well spent.

For more information and to sign up for activities, visit

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