Fall Festival

Felix Neck hosts a day-after-Thanksgiving extravaganza.


Traditional favorites top the extensive list of activities at Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary’s 39th annual Fall Festival on Friday, Nov. 29. For nearly four decades this day-after-Thanksgiving event has drawn crowds to the Edgartown sanctuary, luring Vineyarders and visitors of all ages away from couches, TVs and computers, and turkey leftovers to savor the best of Island nature.

This year’s festival has a unique significance as a preview of Felix Neck’s 40th anniversary observance. The jubilant yearlong celebration kicks off with a community potluck Dec. 7, and will include several festive gatherings and fundraisers before wrapping up at next year’s 40th Fall Festival.

Next Friday’s event will be filled with outdoor fun for all ages, crafts, food, live music, nature walks, hayrides, and, of course, birds.

“Climate Action Heroes” is the 2019 theme, reflecting the strong emphasis that both Felix Neck and its parent organization, Mass Audubon, are placing on climate change awareness and education. According to sanctuary director Suzan Bellincampi, this theme will be woven through the festival activities in various ways.

“Discover how easy it is to make a big impact!” writes education assistant Elizabeth Dengenis in a press announcement.

Education coordinator Josey Kirkland said ongoing climate action initiatives include Climate Cafes, student-organized community conversations. Climate impact awareness is part of educational programs, and a well-attended Youth Climate Summit was held last spring.

In another positive achievement, the sanctuary received a $30,000 challenge grant from the Tern Foundation to install solar panels on the equipment barn roof to support the goal of zero energy consumption. Felix Neck must raise a matching $30,000 to receive the funding.

The fun begins in the barn, home to young Fern and Feather campers all summer. Toddlers move in in the off-season for the thriving Fern and Feather Preschool.

On Festival Friday the cozy post-and-beam structure will be buzzing. Exuberant craftmaking activities will employ natural and recycled materials.

Festivalgoers will adorn fanciful wands with colored yarn and items from nature. Or they may fashion bright, nature-themed greeting cards with cutouts from Felix Neck wildlife calendars. Face painters will transform youngsters into woodland creatures and exotic feathered friends. Cranberries and popcorn will be strung into bird-tempting decor.

A photo display will highlight Vineyarders who are taking steps to raise awareness and respond to the threats of climate change. Kirkland said the photos will feature not only professionals but also everyday Islanders who are making an effort.

Visitors will also be invited to write messages to legislators in support of climate action and environmental protection. They may pledge to take a new step toward sustainable living, receive a button, and get connected to Mass Audubon online environmental resources.

Outdoors there will be something for every taste and interest. For energetic early risers, expert birder Rob Culbert will lead a walk through varied habitats from woodland to wetland. Everyone will enjoy making a log birdfeeder, and youngsters will love knocking down plump butternuts in the zany Squash Bowling game.

The Flying Elbows will keep the good-timey beat going all day with upbeat traditional tunes.

Wreathmaking will be a popular pastime, as crafty festivalgoers decorate bittersweet rounds with fresh-cut greens, dried flowers, shells, and pinecones gathered and provided by Susan Silva and friends.

A perennial highlight is Marla Isaac with her dramatic birds of prey from Taunton-based New England Reptile and Raptor. The birds will be on view all day, with demonstrations at 11 am, 12:30 pm, and 2 pm.

Hop on the hay wagon for an old-fashioned spin around the field, thanks to favorite driver Alan Gowell, who pitches in each year.

Anyone with an ear for the birds can sign up to compete in the third annual Bird Call Contest for accolades and prizes.

Even after Thursday’s holiday dinner, it’s hard to resist the savory aromas from the food corner

Gracious volunteers will grill veggie burgers and Nip ’n’ Tuck hotdogs donated by Ghost Island Farm, and dish up hot chowder and chili. Hungry guests can grab a Ploughman’s Lunch of bread, cheddar, and an apple or fresh popcorn. Sweets are on the menu, both homemade and donated by bakeries. Add a cup of cocoa, cider, or Chilmark Coffee for the perfect meal.

To help decrease environmental impact and waste, visitors are urged to bring their own utensils, plates, and mugs, and take a bus or bike, all to be rewarded with free food tickets.

For “better than Black Friday” gift buying, head into the Felix Neck Shop, stocked with nature-themed items, where money spent will go to a good cause. Along with a wide selection of field guides, there are books, Mass Audubon hot and cold beverage containers, lovely bird-themed cards, oversize wildlife mugs, newly designed Felix Neck T shirts and sweatshirts, plush chirping birds, educational games, and crafts for kids. Mass Audubon members receive a discount, and a sale table offers bargains too.

There will be artwork and photos by talented Islanders, a sale of nature books and materials from the Felix Neck library, and the brand new 2020 Felix Neck Wildlife Calendar.

Bellincampi said the festival is both a sociable community gathering and an important fundraiser. She said the event relies on dozens of dedicated helpers who make the day run smoothly, and generous businesses and organizations that provide food. New volunteers are welcome. 


39th annual Felix Neck Fall Festival, Friday, Nov. 29, 11 am to 3 pm. Rain date: Saturday, Nov. 30. Members $6, nonmembers: $10, children under 3 free. 508-627-4850 or email felixneck@massaudubon.org.