Families gather at botanic garden for Fall Children’s Festival

MORGANTOWN — A better question to Tanna Saconn on Sunday afternoon might have been, “Is there anything you didn’t like about the Fall Children’s Festival at the West Virginia Botanic Garden?”

“I liked the trees and that thing we did with the leaves,” the 7-year-old Morgantown youngster bubbled.

“I liked when we planted stuff, and I liked when we painted the pumpkin and I liked the Fairy Walk.”

And?

“I guess I just liked everything.”

The garden, an 82-acre wooded expanse near Morgantown on Tyrone Road is a frequent destination for Tanna and her little brother Kierdan, who is 5.

“Yeah, we’re out here a lot,” mom Sarah Saconn said. “They love this place.”

To love it, though, one has to see it, said Bill Mills, the garden’s executive director.

That was the seed of idea for the children’s festival, which celebrated its 10th anniversary Sunday.

The festival was created to get today’s digital kids trekking to the actual outdoors, he said.

“We’ve probably got 700 kids out here today,” Mills said. “For a lot of these kids, it’s like being in a whole

new world.”

A whole new, old (growth) world, as it were.

Youngsters laughed and romped among towering oak and hemlock trees in the garden, which is the site of the former Tibbs Run Reservoir. The reservoir supplied water to the city of Morgantown until 1969.

After the reservoir basin was drained in 1980, environmental advocates took root. The eco-volunteers eventually bloomed into the organization that is now the West Virginia Botanic Garden.

Now, the Garden is the site of nature walks, yoga sessions and seminars related to the environment and other concerns.

Past trappings of the Garden’s original infrastructure can still be still be spied along its trails.

Under the eye of volunteers and staffers, the water from those past days that pooled in low areas over the years was allowed to evolve into natural wetlands.

Said volunteers and staffers took full root for the proceedings Sunday.

Festival sponsors did the same. They set up informational booths and fun activity stations, where pumpkins were painted and impressions of leaves were cast onto discs of clay, among other things.

The gathering apparently made an impression on Crystal, an Eastern Screech Owl who never once took her eye off the doings of the day.

“She doesn’t miss much,” said Mike Bergen, her handler with the Avian Conservation Center of Appalachia.

Crystal remained perched on Bergen’s arm as he told her story. She doesn’t fly as well as she used to. One of her wings was mangled after she was struck by car. The avian center rescued her and treated her injury. Now she’s a living, feathered lesson plan.

The glittery wings that were part of Emilee Austin’s get-up caught plenty of other eyes, meanwhile. Likewise for her similarly glittered lipstick and eye makeup.

Austin is a WVU communications studies major who has an internship at the garden. She’d be out here even if she didn’t, she said.

She grew up in the suburbs of northern Virginia, but she went on hiking and camping excursions at every opportunity.

“Then I came to the beautiful mountain state of West Virginia to go to school,” she said.

Austin was the official Fairy Walk tour guide for the day. She led youngsters and their parents along foot paths, where they heard timeless fairy tales and built mini-houses from wood on the forest floor.

Well, that explains the outfit, one dad said. “Are you kiddin’ me? I dress like this all the time.”

Tweet @DominionPostWV. Email jbissett@dominionpost.com.

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