Felix Neck Fall Festival

DIY bird feeders, one of the activities at Fall Festival 2015. —Courtesy Mass Audubon

If you’ve never been to Felix Neck, or if you haven’t been in a while, this weekend will be a great time to check out all that the 200-acre wildlife sanctuary has to offer. The annual Fall Festival is a fun day of activities, music, food, demonstrations, crafts, and more, and the perfect introduction to a facility that hosts nature-based programming all year round.

Felix Neck, a Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuary, boasts four miles of trails through woodlands, meadows, ponds, salt marsh, and shoreline, which are home to dozens of varieties of birds and other wildlife. The Discovery Center features a brand-new marine life tank. The sanctuary regularly hosts educational programs, seasonal kayak tours, and many other activities, as well as a summer day camp, making it an ideal place to visit year-round.

This is the 36th year in a row that Felix Neck has invited people of all ages to come and enjoy a post-Thanksgiving celebration. “It’s become an Island tradition,” says education coordinator Josey Kirkland. “It’s an opportunity to have a nice, wholesome, family nature day, and to spend time in the community catching up with friends.”

This year, the festival will have a theme: Habitats, Homes and Hideaways, inspired by the sanctuary’s current capital campaign aimed at constructing a new education and camp center. A special activity will focus on the theme. Kids are invited to Felix Neck’s new Nature Play Zone for shelter building and fairy house building. “We’re focusing a lot on animal architects and different ways that they build homes on the Island,” says Ms. Kirkland. There will be plenty of other activities to keep kids busy all day, including face painting, hay rides, and crafts.

But the festival is not just for kids and families. One of the most perennially popular activities, wreath making, will give people a jump-start on the holidays. Guests will be invited to craft their own decoration using a premade natural wreath and adding greens, dried flowers, shells, and other elements from nature. Since September, Felix Neck staff members have been cutting back invasive bittersweet, and have twisted the vines into wreaths to use for the holiday craft.

For those who want to get an early start, expert birder Robert Culbert will lead a guided bird walk beginning at 9 am. Mr. Culbert’s weekly series of Island bird walks has concluded for the season, and this will be the last chance to join him for some birdwatching until spring.

The Flying Elbows fiddle band will keep things lively all day. Available food options (for purchase) will include veggie burgers, hot dogs, a ploughman’s lunch, chowder, vegetarian chili, and baked goods, all donated by local businesses. A silent auction will include lots of great items from massages and yoga classes to artwork, jewelry, gift baskets, and more.

The always popular Birds of Prey demo will feature turkey vultures, osprey, and a variety of owls presented by Marla Isaac of New England Reptile and Raptors. The birds will be on display throughout the day, and Ms. Isaac will  offer three live shows, at 11 am, 12:30 pm, and 2 pm.

The  festival theme is subtitled “Build It and They Will Come.” People have certainly been coming to Felix Neck in large numbers since it first opened over 50 years ago. Now the sanctuary has outgrown the converted barn facility, and is in the process of raising $200,000 to construct a new, larger building.

The education center is used for a number of events and activities for adults and kids, including the sanctuary’s popular Fern and Feather Day Camp. “Our camp has grown exponentially in the past few years,” says Ms. Kirkland. “We never want to have to turn anyone away. The new building is also going to allow us to expand our offerings in the off-season. We’ll be able to hold two different classes simultaneously, and offer more for adults.” So far Felix Neck has raised more than half the money. The official capital campaign will continue through the end of the year, by which time the organization hopes to have met its goal.

The sanctuary is open year-round, and hosts regular programming throughout the winter. Upcoming events include a Winter Solstice party featuring a campfire, stories, snacks, and stargazing with amateur astrologist Mark Alan Lovewell on Dec. 21, and pop-up snowshoeing events to take place on the days following winter snowfalls.

The newest addition to the grounds — a contemplation labyrinth — has been the setting this fall for a morning meditation and labyrinth walk. This series will continue through Dec. 15 (weather permitting) weekly on Thursdays at 8 am.

The Fall Festival has always proven to be a good way  to reach out to the community and give people  a taste of what the sanctuary has to offer. It also affords an opportunity for families to celebrate the season in a less traditional manner. “It’s the total opposite of Black Friday,” says Ms. Kirkland. “It’s about getting people outdoors instead of worrying about material things.”

Felix Neck Fall Festival, Friday, Nov. 25, 11 to 3. Admission: $6 members of Mass Audubon, $9 nonmembers; children under 3 are free. Food is available for purchase. There are many other events on the Felix Neck winter calendar. You can find out more by visiting massaudubon.org/get-outdoors/wildlife-sanctuaries/felix-neck.