Earth Day is observed every year on April 22, but this year, the Village of Wellington and the Okeeheelee Nature Center will be celebrating early.
Wellington will host its Earth Day & Arbor Day Celebration on Sunday, April 17, from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Wellington Amphitheater. The Okeeheelee Nature Center will hold its Earth Day festivities Saturday, April 16 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Wellington’s celebration on Sunday is a free event where visitors can learn about recycling, composting, respecting the planet, tree pruning and more, with vendors and exhibitors such as the Wellington Tree Board, the Wellington Garden Club and the Florida Forestry Service.
Community Programs Manager Michelle Garvey is looking forward to a bigger celebration this year, with a wider array of booths, including the Palm Beach Central High School Environmental Club, Smokey the Bear, MaxHealth Chiropractic, Waste Management, the Wellington Art Society, Shara Crane of DyeTastic, a LuLaRoe distributor, the North American Butterfly Association, Sublicious Farms, Forever Greyhounds and the Ice Cream Express food truck.
“We’re going to have a couple of proclamations, one for Earth Day, one for Arbor Day and one for National Volunteer Week,” Garvey said.
Presented by the Wellington Village Council, the proclamations will kick off the event.
Next, with help from Smokey the Bear, a paradise tree will be planted. Then, local favorite the Bobby G. band will be performing. There will be a large coloring mural, which will be displayed at Village Park afterward, and free face painting. Attendees will also learn about honeybees and their impact on the environment.
Demonstrations, giveaways and a raffle for a tree in a 15-gallon container will provide an element of fun. Free tree seedlings in 2-gallon pots, native shrubs and wildflower seeds will be available for growing at home.
Cake and additional giveaways will be part of the celebration for volunteers. “It’s through their help that we can put on events such as this,” Garvey said.
Combining the two events, she explained, gives the volunteers recognition and a fun event to take part in.
Earth Day is an exciting event in Wellington, Garvey said, especially with the number of trees that the community has.
“Wellington has a bunch of natural preserves that we’re very proud of, and we’re also a Tree City, so that’s something we really try to highlight at this event,” she said. “By planting a tree, we’re adding one more to our growing number in the village.”
Members of the Wellington Art Society will have nature-inspired paintings for viewing and for sale, and members of the Wellington Garden Club, which recently held its biennial garden tour, will be on hand to answer questions about gardening in the area.
For more information, visit www.wellingtonfl.gov.
Okeeheelee Nature Center Manager Callie Sharkey is excited about the expansion and additions to this year’s Earth Day festivities on Saturday at Okeeheelee Park.
“We’re partnering up with the Audubon Society of the Everglades this year, which is excellent and means that we have sort of a bird theme going on,” Sharkey said.
There will be an Audubon Adventure Trail, with six activity stations for children to complete. One station will even be creating an edible cupcake bird’s nest. Once the activities are over, children will be given a native plant to take home.
There will be snow cones, popcorn, grilling food for purchase and guest speakers. At 10 a.m., attendees can learn about hawks and owls. At 11 a.m., Melissa Moyroud of Lorax Designs will discuss how to create a yard for wildlife.
At noon, Ann Hartman from the University of Florida will discuss the benefits of barn owls. Bird photographer Susan Faulkner Davis will explain how to get close-up photographs at 1 p.m., and at 2 p.m., the Audubon Society will provide tips and tricks for bird identification. At 3 p.m., Edward Mercer from the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission will discuss the effects that invasive reptiles have on the environment.
The South Florida Wildlife Care Center will also be doing animal releases of rehabilitated animals at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., weather permitting, Sharkey said. Last year, baby opossums were released.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Sharkey said, noting that there will be more vendors and activities than in the past.
For the past few weeks, the Okeeheelee Nature Center building has been closed for maintenance. Many habitats and displays have been moved and changed, so there will be plenty to explore.
“I’m really excited to get the doors open,” Sharkey said. “We are using the outdoor classroom and the nature trails. We’re using more of the grounds for Earth Day this year than we have in previous years, so I’m excited to do more and go a little bit bigger than we have for the last few years.”
All of the raptors will be out, Sharkey said, and volunteers will be bringing animals around outside of their enclosures. The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Mounted Unit and the Muck Monster will also be making an appearance.
“It will be as hands-on as we can get,” she said. “We’re trying to be more hands-on.”
The event is free to attend and participate in. The only cost involved is for food. Earth Day at Okeeheelee will be rain or shine; many of the vendors will be set up on the deck, and there will be live folk music for entertainment. For more information, call (561) 233-1400.
ABOVE: Planting a tree at the Earth Day celebration in Wellington last year.