Wellington, Okeeheelee Plan Events To Celebrate Earth Day 2015

Though Earth Day is officially April 22 and Arbor Day is celebrated on the third Friday of January in Florida, the Village of Wellington will celebrate both holidays with a special event this weekend. Meanwhile, the Okeeheelee Nature Center has big plans to celebrate Earth Day next weekend.

Wellington’s Earth Day/Arbor Day bash is scheduled for Sunday, April 19 from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Wellington Amphitheater (12100 W. Forest Hill Blvd.).

Michelle Garvey, community programs manager for the village, is anticipating a great event.

“We’re combining our Earth Day/Arbor Day celebration, and also having a concert to draw more people out so they can get the free information that we’re offering about the different groups that are environmental and earth-minded,” she said.

There’s going to be plenty to do for kids of all ages. There will be a mural to draw on, face painting, demonstrations, giveaways, a raffle, free trees and shrubs, and much more.

“This is for families to come and enjoy a family day out, as well as get some educational materials from the vendors,” Garvey said.

The only thing visitors have to pay for is the food and snacks that will be available from food trucks.

Whole Foods Market, one of the sponsors, will be talking about healthy food and living. Whole Foods has also donated 250 reusable bags, which will go to the first 250 attendees. Al Salopek from Bee Understanding will make a presentation, and Smokey the Bear will be making an appearance.

Proper pruning techniques will be demonstrated at the village’s tents. At 4 p.m., the Wellington Village Council and others will make a presentation, and then a wild tamarind tree will be planted.

Whole Foods, the Wellington Garden Club and the Wellington Tree Board will also be making presentations. The Wellington Preservation Coalition, another sponsor, will also be represented.

The village’s public works tent and the Wellington Garden Club tent will be giving out free native shrubs as well as mahogany tree seedlings in 2-gallon pots.

“Earth Day and Arbor Day have always been important to Wellington,” Garvey said. “We’re recognized as a tree city.”

The concert, featuring the Jamie Mitchell Band, will be outside, so be sure to bring chairs or blankets to sit on and enjoy, she said.

“It’s a great family event because we do have things for the children, plus the playground is right next door,” Garvey said. “You can listen to the concert, get a little education on things; we’ll have the animal adoption agencies, we also have a local chiropractor so you can get adjusted; you can watch your children play. It’s just a nice family afternoon.”

For more information about Wellington’s Earth Day/Arbor Day event, visit www.wellingtonfl.gov.

Next weekend, on Saturday, April 25, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Okeeheelee Nature Center at Okeeheelee Park (7715 Forest Hill Blvd.) will host an Earth Day celebration with the Palm Beach County Parks & Recreation Department.

Okeeheelee Nature Center Manager Callie Sharkey is thrilled to celebrate Earth Day at the event, which is co-sponsored by the Friends of Okeeheelee Nature Center.

There will be guest speakers, vendors, games, raffles, crafts, guided nature walks, animal encounters, guest speakers and more.

Some of the exhibitors include the Lake Worth Lagoon Initiative, Florida Trails, the Palm Beach Pack & Paddle Club, the Palm Beach County Extension Service, Vermiculture Composting and the Artistic Blacksmiths.

“The local woodturners group is also going to be doing an exhibition where they’re going to be using the lathe and making some of their beautiful woodworking projects while they’re here,” Sharkey said. “We also have, currently posted in our facility, work that is part of an art show that is being juried and judged. They’re announcing the winners on May 1.”

The work from many local artists across different mediums will be on display.

“We’re very excited. We just held a large event back in February, the Dark Sky Festival,” she said, “so we’re very happy to do an all-encompassing Earth Day event during the day, and it is for all ages. We love to give people the opportunity to come back and see how we’ve grown over the past year.”

Last year, more than 600 people came out to the park to enjoy the festivities.

“This year, we’re also introducing something new — the animal clue trail. Kids, or grown-ups, can go out onto the trail and participate in a type of scavenger hunt or clue trail where they’ll find hints and they have to answer questions,” Sharkey said.

The mix of indoor and outdoor activities is intentional, to give people the opportunity to learn while they have a great time. “We’re trying to get people in and out of the building, and it’s going to be very interactive,” Sharkey explained.

The animal encounters will include snakes, alligators and turtles.

“There are a lot of animals that are normally not on display for the regular public when you come and visit during our open hours,” she said. “This is an opportunity for people to see all of the animals that live here at the nature center.”

For example, she said, on a typical day visitors may see Hootie, the screech owl. However, visitors might not see Alex, the large grey-horned owl, or the red-tailed hawk, peregrine falcon and other raptors. One of the special free presentations next Saturday is a raptor presentation. Craft projects will include seed feeders for outside creatures.

A busy day has been scheduled for visitors. The Palm Beach County Woodturners will be with the vendors from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the veranda. At 9:30 a.m., there will be a deer walk. Raffle tickets will be on sale until 2:30 p.m. There is a butterfly walk at 10 a.m., and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Florida Artistic Blacksmiths will be on the east side of the nature center, where there will be soda, water, popcorn and snow cones available for sale, face painting on the veranda, a kid’s corner with crafts, and an owl pellet dissection station at the Discovery Zone, in addition to the animal clue trail.

At 11 a.m., there will be a manatee lecture by Dr. Tom Reinert in the auditorium before the PBSO Mounted Unit comes by at 11:30 a.m. At 1 p.m., there will be a raptor presentation in the auditorium and there will also be a nature walk. At 2 p.m. in the auditorium, Karen Lindquist will discuss how to attract birds and butterflies. The raffle drawing will take place at 2:45 p.m. by the gift shop, but you don’t need to be present to win.

Lunch will be available from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.: $5 for a hot dog, chips and a drink, or $6 for a hamburger, chips and a drink.

For more information about Earth Day at the Okeeheelee Nature Center, visit www.pbcparks.com/nature or call (561) 233-1400.