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Kids connect with creatures at Elachee event
Fall Festival offers hands-on animal activities, lessons about nature
Volunteer Yolanda Wang ties a spider bracelet onto the wrist of Kathleen Forkin, 5, Saturday while cousin Dalton Munroe, 10, looks on during the Family Fall Festival at the Elachee Nature Science Center. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Kyla Lakey loves reptiles, especially turtles.

The 9-year-old loves them so much that she's not even afraid to hold a snake.

"Over the summer, this guy had a python curled up in a ball, and there were some bigger guys that wouldn't touch it but she held her hand out," said her father, Joseph Lakey.

The Lakeys were one of many families taking part in Elachee Nature Science Center's Family Fall Festival on Saturday. The event featured crafts, face painting, a raffle, a master falconer with a falcon and Eurasian eagle owl and other kid-friendly activities.

Joseph Lakey said that Kyla always enjoys the exhibits at Elachee, and he figured the Fall Festival was a nice way to do something for Halloween.

Along with all reptiles, Kyla also loves Indians, which is what she chose to dress up as this Halloween.
As Kyla participated in the arts and crafts, volunteers from Brenau Academy, including some students who are originally from China, were ready to help with the Halloween-themed activities.

"I thought it would be fun to help some of the kids make the crafts," said Tessa Greene, a Brenau Academy volunteer.

Elizabeth Chappelle, a house director at Brenau Academy and a naturalist at Elachee Nature Science Center, said that little kids love the arts and crafts events at Elachee.

"I watch how the kids respond, and they love doing these things," she said. "It may be a very simple thing, but to a small child, it is challenging enough."

Chappelle said that the unique part of the event was the Trail of Treats. As people traveled down the Geiger Trail, they encountered Elachee employees who were dressed as a bear, owl, bat, spider, possum and luna moth.

If kids could match an animal with a clue given to them, they received a treat. Each "animal" also talked to the kids about his or her role in nature.

"You don't usually come across a luna moth with someone acting it out in a great costume," Chappelle said. "I think it is very entertaining, and it tickles the kids."

Angela Belanger, a naturalist at Elachee Nature Science Center, said that the treats offered included stickers, candy and fast-food coupons.

"This is a different way to explore the trails," she said. "I always say that you should hike a trail at least four times a year so you can see the different seasons, so this is a good chance to come out in the fall."

Belanger also believes that it is important to have nonscary Halloween events because some children are more sensitive. The event was welcome for families on a budget.

"The crafts are free, the shows are free, so you are not spending a lot of money when you come here," Belanger said.

Another aspect to the Fall Festival were the Woopets of Wooten Performance Company based out of Athens.

"The woopets are puppets of all sizes - from finger puppets to larger than life - and we do have a very big environmental emphasis," said Mary Wooten who was performing on Saturday as an owl and a huge bear.

"Our emphasis on this show is fall and winter, so we will be talking about hibernation and migration," Wooten said. "We have lots of creatures that exhibit what happens at this time of year from in the water to in the air."