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It's picnic time: Everyone welcome to Nature Extravaganza at Dunton Locks

This Sunday, Thrivent Financial and Grace Lutheran Church are partnering up with Mother Nature for an afternoon of community in the outdoors at Dunton Locks County Park.

Looking for a way to create more church involvement and family interaction, Larry Gebhardt of Thrivent approached the committee at Grace Lutheran, which hosted a picnic at Dunton Locks last year, and proposed the concept. The church met the idea with resounding excitement, and Nature Extravaganza was soon put into planning.

It all starts at noon on Sunday with a picnic lunch. Thrivent will supply the hot dogs, Grace Lutheran will bring the lemonade, coffee, plates and utensils, and attendees are invited to bring a potluck dish to pass around.

Through 4 p.m., all are invited to appreciate the outdoors in whichever ways they choose.

You might want to throw on a life jacket and canoe with a guide, or bring along fishing gear and hope to make a catch. Maybe you want to check out the guided geocache before swinging by the Habitat for Humanity booth or showing off your skills at Horse Shoes and other games.

Otherwise, you can tap your toes to the Old Time Country Bunch's music at 2 p.m., or simply enjoy the surroundings with hiking, flowering identification and birding.

"There will be built-in time for socializing," said Wilma Hanson, who serves on the Nature Extravaganza Committee at Grace Lutheran and finds the afternoon's appeal in the opportunity to bask in the company of friends, family and neighbors.

The afternoon's events will also include three Table Talks. Robb Larson will bring out his fossils for a "Digging for Dinosaurs" chat, followed by Carolyn Engebretson sharing her knowledge on climate change. Lastly, Norman Danielson will tell stories from his trip to Russia, a country he's always held a passion for.

"We hope their stories will spark questions and interest," Hanson said of the three, adding that the talks will be "informal and conversational" in nature.

At 4 p.m., there will be drawings for prizes from Central Market, Hoffman's, and Pizza Hut.

The Extravaganza has no cost, and everyone is welcome to attend - and asked to bring lawn chairs if they do.

"We encourage people to come and participate and have fun and socialize," Hanson said. "I think it would be fun to do this over and over," she added about the possibility of the Nature Extravaganza becoming a recurring summer event.

Whether it's for the music, the games and activities, the conversation, or simply to enjoy the scenery and greenery alongside others, head out to Dunton Locks at noon on Sunday, and hope that the weather is willing, as well.