Fall Festival provides glimpse at Tamarac Wildlife Refuge offerings

Residents from several states attend annual event

Chris Tolman, director of The Nature Connection, brought birds of prey for visitors of Tamarac Wildlife Refuge's Fall Festival to learn about. Many also took the opportunity to get up-close pictures of the birds.
Barbie Porter / Detroit Lakes Tribune

ROCHERT – Josefina Partridge stepped out of her home in Fargo, N.D., with her tired family in tow. Two children and a husband trudged to the car and settled in for a drive to lake country.

Partridge often drove by the Tamarac Wildlife Refuge while conducting business, but she never had time to stop.

“It seemed like I was always in a time crunch,” she said.

When she heard about the annual Fall Festival at Tamarac Wildlife Refuge on Sunday, Sept. 25, Partridge made it a point to keep the schedule clear and to set her alarm.

“I’m glad I dragged everyone out of bed,” she said, adding her family was also enjoying the adventure. “We plan to come hiking here next month.”


Kylee Fredrickson, 13, used colorful leaves to decorate a picture frame during the Tamarac Wildlife Refuge's Fall Festival. The Detroit Lakes resident is the daughter of Andrew and Felicia Pedersen.
Barbie Porter / Detroit Lakes Tribune

The park offers several miles of hiking trails, which can be previewed on the park’s website, Some hiking trails were created by volunteers, such as Mark LaBarre. He and his wife Barb were visiting the park, as they do annually for the Fall Festival.

“I helped build a trail when I was 18,” he said. “It was during the summer and we removed trees, hauled sand and cut brush.”

Now, the retired 61-year-old Detroit Lakes resident enjoys spending his time at the Refuge taking pictures of the fall colors on display with the variety of trees, flowers and birds.

Near the visitor center, people gathered to capture a picture of a great horned owl enjoying the afternoon in a spruce tree.

“Her name is Luna,” said Chris Tolman, the director of The Nature Connection, which is a nonprofit organization that specializes in Minnesota wildlife educational programming. The group is based in Bemidji, Minn., but Tolman made the trek south to join in the fun of the Fall Festival.

In addition to three owls, Tolman also brought two hawks to give presentations about the birds to visitors.

A great horned owl was a big draw for photographers at the Tamarac Wildlife Refuge's Fall Festival on Sunday, Sept. 25.
Barbie Porter / Detroit Lakes Tribune

Another gathering place for visitors was the outdoor amphitheater, which hosted a presentation from Norma Jean Bakka. The White Earth tribal member spent time during the pandemic learning how to make jingle dresses, and then made several.

People wore the traditional native dress as they stood at the front of the amphitheater and Bakka shared history about the jingle dress, which evolved into a healing dress.


Norma Jean Bakka (front, right) made the jingle dresses that were worn during the Tamarac Wildlife Refuge's Fall Festival. She, and other members of White Earth, shared the history of the dresses with visitors.
Barbie Porter / Detroit Lakes Tribune

Helping provide entertainment for the Fall Festival attendees was Tamarac Wildlife Refuge Visitor Services Manager Kelly Blackledge. She said the event has been held for more than 20 years and attendance varies from 250 people to more than 400.

“The Tamarac Wildlife Refuge is known as a place to fish and hunt,” Blackledge said. “This event highlights great opportunities to hike, paddle and enjoy wildlife photography.”

Based on the eight states represented on license plates in the parking lot, word of Tamarac Wildlife Refuge’s recreational opportunities has gotten out. (The eight states were: New Mexico, Illinois, Texas, North Dakota, Maryland, Montana, Wisconsin and Minnesota).

Visitors at Tamarac Wildlife Refuge take in the start of fall colors creating a scenic landscape.
Barbie Porter / Detroit Lakes Tribune

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