The autumnal equinox is Monday, Sept. 23, and that means fall has officially arrived in the lakes area, bringing with it a whole new assortment of seasonal activities, starting with next weekend's Tamarac Fall Festival
The staff and volunteers at Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge are gearing up to host the Refuge's annual celebration of all things autumn on Sunday, Sept. 29. No, that's not a typo — the festival is taking place on a Sunday rather than a Saturday, as has been the tradition for the past several years.
"Sundays bring our highest number of visitations here, so we thought we'd try hosting it (the festival) on a Sunday afternoon instead," says Kelly Blackledge, the Refuge's Visitor Services Manager.
From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 29, Tamarac visitors will be able to enjoy a guided bus tour, family activity stations, a puppet show, a raptor demonstration (with live birds of prey!), a photo contest exhibit and a lunch featuring pulled pork sandwiches.
The activity stations are actually part of the festival's annual Nature Challenge, where those who participate in the activities at all of the stations are eligible to win a special prize to take home with them.
"That week is National Wolf Awareness Week, so those that complete the challenge will get this really cool wolf poster," Blackledge said.
As for the challenge itself, she added, this year's theme is "A Family Affair," which means all of the activities are focused on how family structures work in the wild.
For instance, Blackledge explained, challenge participants will be asked to test their knowledge on such questions as, "what is a baby swan called?" or "what role do beta wolves play in a wolf pack?"
In addition to the activity stations, there will be a guided bus tour leaving from the Historic Cabin Site, promptly at noon.
"The tour lasts about 90 minutes," Blackledge said, adding that it includes stops in some remote areas of the 43,000-acre Refuge that visitors would otherwise be unable to see.
Over at the Discovery Center, there will be a photography exhibit featuring this year’s entries in the annual Tamarac Photo Contest. Visitors can vote for their favorite photos.
Primary event parking will be available in the field adjacent to the Historic Cabin Site, across from the Tamarac Maintenance Shop (watch for blue flag banners).
“The Detroit Lakes Jaycees will once again have their trolley out here to give rides between the cabin site and the Discovery Center and Visitor Center,” which are across the road from each other, Blackledge noted.
Alternatively, visitors can hike the ¾-mile Bear Paw Trail between the cabins and visitor center, where additional parking is also available.
Lunch will be served onsite as well, Blackledge said, with the small fee charged being used to support environmental education programs offered by the Friends of Tamarac at the Refuge each year. All other activities at the festival are offered free of charge, she added.
If you go
What: Tamarac Fall Festival
When: Sunday, Sept. 29, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Where: Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge, 35704 270 St., Rochert, Minn.
Info: All festival activities are free; a small fee will be charged for the lunch, which is being hosted by the Friends of Tamarac and will support environmental education programs at the refuge. For more information, about the Fall Festival or Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge in general, visit www.fws.gov/refuge/tamarac or call 218-847-2641.