If you’ve hung around His Girl Friday for awhile, then you know one place our family loves to go for outdoor family friendly fun is The Wilderness Center in Wilmot, Ohio.
One of TWC’s biggest annual events is The Enchanted Forest (and one we are SO excited to attend this year). Recently, my oldest son – Theo – and I were able to sit in on dress rehearsals to bring you a little preview of this special event which runs Friday, October 7 through Saturday, October 8!
The Enchanted Forest, currently in it’s 28th season, is a two night event where families are invited on a (non-scary) guided tour of the nighttime forrest. Families are led along jack-o-lantern lit paths by a group of friendly fireflies, where they will meet a collection of nighttime animals who will share a bit about their life in the forest.
During dress rehearsals, I got to meet Sally, a veteran volunteer of TWC and the Enchanted Forest. Sally said this was one of her favorite events, as she “loved the imagination involved and being around the children.” This year, you can come meet Sally and her character, the slug, who will sing you a song about slug life in the forest.
There will be a total of two trails for the event, with six characters on each trail. Every year’s Enchanted Forest has it’s own theme, and this year’s promises to be lots of fun for both the kids and the adults. I don’t want to give anything away, but trust me, the characters are fun and the script, written by Karrie McAllister, an Education Specialist at TWC, is witty and sure to entertain adults and children alike.
Carrie Elvey has been with TWC for 16 years and has helped out with the Enchanted Forest for 15. She helped make all the costume – 10 or 12 in all. Each year’s Enchanted Forest includes a different combination of characters, based on the theme.
For Elvey, the fun of the characters and the lantern lit paths combine to make a very magical event. Every year, volunteers get together before the event to carve these pumpkins into friendly jack-o-lanterns.
Each group is led down their path by three fireflies, where they will meet characters who tell their story in first person. The first character you meet will have an open faced costume, to ease younger children into the experience and to not cause any alarm. The event is all fun, no tears.
“We invite kids and adults alike to dress up in non-scary costumes,” says Sara Brink, TWC Marketing Manager. “This event is a nice alternative to Halloween. It’s completely family friendly and it’s a great opportunity to get your kids out at night in nature.”
This year’s characters are brought to life by students from the Orrville High School Drama Club. You will meet Crayfish played by Trevor and Stella, dirt played by Lance, and a singing coyote brought to life by Jessie. And of course, Sally, the singing slug.
Groups of 20 leave every 1/2 hour, and currently, there is still space in every time slot. While you wait for your group to depart, there will be coloring activities for the kids and an opportunity to take pictures in the photo booth. After completing your guided tour, families are invited to stay and enjoy cider and pretzels.
A few notes –
The event is rain or shine, and in the chance of inclement weather, the characters will be under a tarp so everyone can still enjoy their story. Strollers are not recommended. Flashlights are not allowed, but there will be plenty of light from the jack-o-lanterns and from the fireflies.
The event is free for children ages 3 and under, and is $6 for members and $8 for nonmembers. This year’s prices reflect a reduction that was made possible by some generous sponsors.
The event is educational and entertaining, and something the whole family can enjoy!
As Theo and I were wrapping up our time with the dress reversals, Brink asked Theo if he would like to see Barnaby, the resident turtle. Before long, Brink had Barnaby out and was handing meal worms to Theo to feed his new best buddy.
Outside the building, we bumped into Krista, a naturalist at TWC, and her opossum buddy, Pooka. Theo wasn’t up to getting too close to Pooka, but eyed her with curiosity as I chatted with Krista.
These, are not unusual occurrences. Everyone here is incredibly warm and wonderful, with the common goal of inspiring visitors fall in love with nature. You can’t help but learn something new or discover something to pique your interest.
As we were heading to our van to go home, Theo and I spotted someone with a microphone, leaning into the tall grass and wild flowers. She noticed us and before long, Lisa Rainsong was telling us all about her work recording the sounds of nature.
Rainsong, a professor of Music Theory at The Cleveland Institute of Music, loves recording Ohio insects and birds to help people understand the importance of protecting what she describes as our “first musicians.”
While we were talking, Lisa shared with us that TWC is the very spot for a fascinating natural event called hybridization that takes place between the Black-Capped Chickadees of the north and the Carolina Chickadees of the south. North of Route 30 you will find the Black-Capped Chickadees. South of Route 30, the Carolina Chickadees. However, in the narrow range where the two breeds meet, they hybridize. This means, the offspring of the two can sing songs of either species, or sing an entirely new song. It’s incredible because it is so specific to such a particular area, and TWC happens to host this amazing natural phenomenon!
According to Rainsong (what a great name, right???), there are many species of birds and insects that are indecipherable based on appearance alone. You can only tell the difference through their songs. “The main reason I do what I do is because people are so visual that they forget to listen,” Rainson told me.
Rainson’s car has a bumper sticker on it that reads: “The earth has music for those who listen.”
We are all listening to something, really. But maybe it would all do us good to listen to something new, for a change. Listen to the birds overhead. To the insects in the tall grass. To the sounds of life all around us.
The Wilderness Center is so much more than just a nice place to take a walk. It’s a place to listen. You can listen to children playing in the Playscape or enjoying a Nature Musik class. You can listen to the frogs down at the pond. You can listen to the vast amount of life that fills every inch of the place.
Come visit The Wilderness Center. Check out the Enchanted Forest. Visit with the characters as they share about their life in the woods. The earth has so much to tell us. Will you listen?
To find more details on the Enchanted Forrest and to register, visit here.
To become a member of TWC and to support preservation, conservation, and education, visit here.
To find out more about the work Lisa Rainsong does recording the earth’s music, visit her blog here.
I hope to see you at the Enchanted Forrest! We will be attending this year. Theo said he wants to dress up as a monkey and Oliver wants to wear the pirate costume. Come say hi, I’m sure you won’t be able to miss us ;-).
This post is written in support of and partnership with,