Nature and all the trimmings at Felix Neck

Whitney Sins and her mom, Patty
Whitney Sins and her mom, Patty, enjoy a chocolate-dipped treat. Photos by Susan Safford

Posted November 30, 2006

After Thanksgiving's sodden skies, the bright breezy weather on Friday set the perfect tone for Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary's annual Fall Festival. For more Vineyard families every year, an outing to Felix Neck on Thanksgiving Friday is as much a tradition as the holiday turkey itself.

This annual event, begun in the early 1970s, was the first ever without long-time sanctuary director Gus Ben David, who retired nearly a year ago. In the absence of Mr. Ben David's exuberant presence and ever-popular "animal interviews," organizers added some new features to keep festival-goers intrigued and happy. While everyone there who recalled Gus's introductions of turtles and snakes and great flying birds remembered them as high points of the festival, the crowd seemed delighted with the day's offerings.

Erich Luening
Erich Luening added music to the day,
as did Willy Mason and Justen Ahren.

Nature crafts and face painting proceeded as usual and children tried their hand at a tree-themed beanbag toss. First-time additions included guitar music by local artists and guided expeditions lead by naturalists. Intrepid explorers could head off on a quest, an educational nature scavenger hunt from the new "Quest Martha's Vineyard" book edited by Natalie Munn and published by the MVTimes Press.

Along with the customary hearty soup, grilled hot dogs, and sweet bake sale treats, revelers this year could enjoy Katama Bay oysters, a "ploughman's lunch" of bread, cheddar, and apples, or dip fruit into a chocolate fountain donated by Chilmark Chocolates.

Youngsters strung cranberries and popcorn to decorate a Christmas tree for the birds. The evergreen, donated by Matthew Tobin of Tea Lane nursery, was later raffled off to benefit the sanctuary; Kim Araujo of Oak Bluffs was the lucky winner. Visitors packed pinecones and little logs with peanut butter and seeds to tempt birds, too. This year's crowd swelled to nearly 500, the largest ever according to sanctuary director Suzan Bellincampi.

Whether tramping through the sun-dappled woods, relaxing on the grass as guitar music played and children tumbled, or just soaking up the fresh air, lovely views, and serenity that is the gift of Felix Neck, it was a grand post-Thanksgiving celebration for all ages.

Jack Moffat
Jack Moffat carefully hung a pinecone on the birds' tree.
Lia Potter
Lia Potter carefully maneuvers her pinecone, adding birdseed.
Noah Padre
Noah Padre adorns a pinecone with tasty bird treats.
Elaine Carroll with daughter Molly
Elaine Carroll helps her daughter Molly fashion a dried-flower wreath. Susan Silva donated the materials.
Ella Keohane
Ella Keohane from Vermont, visiting her Island aunt Marie Larsen, at the leaf toss game.
Running child