Flock to Felix Neck's annual Fall Festival
For the 28th year in a row, Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary is offering Vineyard families an opportunity to shake off their Thanksgiving Day feasts with a full day of fun and learning.
On Friday, Nov. 28, from 11 am to 3 pm, Felix Neck will host its traditional day-after-Thanksgiving Fall Festival, a favorite for Vineyarders of all ages. Kids and adults can enjoy horse-drawn hayrides, face painting, nature crafts, guided walks, local and organic foods, and live music by Martha's Vineyard's own Flying Elbows. Early birds are invited to join Island expert and author Susan "Soo" Whiting for a special guided bird walk at 9 am, followed by a book signing. And, beginning at 6 pm, Mark Alan Lovewell will wrap up the event with an evening of stargazing.
Photos by Susan Safford
"Honor the Season: Rejoice in Nature's Gifts" is this year's Fall Festival theme. According to Sanctuary Director Suzan Bellincampi, the Festival is Felix Neck's most popular event of the year, attracting as many as 600 people.
"Felix Neck is for everyone," she explains, "and the festival provides a great way to connect people and nature. Kids are thrilled by the wildlife they encounter here, and adults are fascinated by the beauty of 350 undeveloped acres along Sengekontacket."
This year's festival will feature several firsts: horse-drawn hayrides, paper and card making, stargazing, and guided hourly walks. While the event has always been a success with kids between the ages of 2 and 10, Ms. Bellincampi says that this year Felix Neck has planned more activities for older children and adults. The Flying Elbows, an Island-grown fiddle band with a 20-year history and a large following, will be on hand to keep the atmosphere lively.
Ms. Whiting, a life-long Vineyard resident with family roots dating back to the 1600s, will lead the 90-minute guided nature walk starting at 9 am. She'll share her passion for Island birds and Felix Neck's unique terrain. A birder since the age of six, Ms. Whiting will shepherd participants along a level trail that offers unspoiled views of fields, ponds, marsh and woodlands.
"I'm hoping we'll find wintering birds such as chickadees, nuthatches, and woodpeckers, as well as robins and a variety of water fowl along the way," she says. Ms. Whiting urges teens and adults to accompany her but cautions against bringing young children who might tire during the extended walk. She also urges participants to wear comfortable walking shoes, bring walking sticks if needed, and to carry binoculars. After the walk she'll be on hand to sign her most recent book, "Vineyard Birds II," co-authored by Barbara Pesch. "I'll have a stack of books available for purchase," Ms. Whiting says, "but if you already own one, bring it along and I'll be happy to sign it."
If it's a cloudless evening, Felix Neck will remain open to welcome stargazers to join popular writer, photographer, journalist, and entertainer Mark Alan Lovewell for an introduction to the Vineyard night sky. An avid astronomy buff, Mr. Lovewell has been an ardent stargazer since childhood and hopes to share his excitement with participants of all ages.
"It's a great opportunity for kids and adults to come out and see how brilliant the Vineyard sky can be," Mr. Lovewell says. He'll bring a telescope and his understanding of the stars and planets. "It's all about having fun," he says. He advises dressing warmly in "typical Vineyard layers."
Volunteers play a vital role in making the Fall Festival a success. "We have between 40 and 50 volunteers take part each year," Ms. Bellincampi explains. "Some of our volunteers grew up coming to the festival as children and now participate as adults."
West Tisbury resident Nancy Rogers guesses that she's been a volunteer at the festival for nearly 20 years. You'll find her enthusiastically dishing out snacks at the food tent, often accompanied by her husband and her daughter, Phebe Bates. According to Ms. Rogers, Phebe's years attending Felix Neck educational programs and festivals have inspired her to search for colleges with strong animal science and conservation programs.
"The festival is such a wonderful event," Ms. Rogers says. "It's a chance to see a lot of old friends who come out for that reason and to take advantage of a unique environment and great activities."
Photo by Phil Duddy
The Fall Festival helps raise funds for the Felix Neck educational programs for adults and children. Anyone interested in volunteering is invited to contact Felix Neck at 508-627-4850.
Felix Neck Fall Festival, Friday, Nov. 28, 11 am to 3 pm. Rain date: Saturday, Nov. 29. $6; $3 non-members; free for children under 3. There are separate fees for the morning bird walk and the evening stargazing. Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road, Edgartown. For more information, visit email@example.com or call 508-627-4850.
Karla Araujo is a freelance writer who divides her time between the Vineyard and Washington D.C.