GENOA – Peggy Doty is encouraging DeKalb County residents to come out of winter hibernation early and enjoy the outdoors.
For the 13th consecutive year, Doty has organized a free Winterfest to show residents the Russell Woods Forest Preserve has just as much to offer in winter as it does in summer.
The event, hosted by the University of Illinois Extension, will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
“It’s a great way for families to get out during the winter,” she said. “And it’s free, which in this economy is always a positive.”
The event will start at 9 a.m. in the Natural Resource Center in Russell Woods with an indoor birdwatching session.
Doty said she would teach basic bird identification techniques as residents view the activity around the bird feeders.
Arts and crafts will begin at 10 a.m. and last all day for children, who also will be treated to story time at 2 p.m. Candle dipping will be offered from 10 a.m. to noon for anyone interested in making their own candle.
Doty said those events have been staples of Winterfest for years and always are popular.
“We tend to keep a very similar pattern to the day,” she said. “As families get older they move on to other events, so families with young kids come in and are excited about activities they haven’t tried.”
There will be some activities that have not been offered in years, Doty said.
A native skills presenter will teach a beginners tracking class to show people the basics of animal tracking.
There also will be horse-drawn wagon rides along the river from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and demonstrations on how pioneers made rope.
Doty said hikes through the forest would leave at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
All events and activities are free. The Prairie Gems 4-H Club will be on hand to provide snacks and lunch items for a small donation. Donations go toward the club and supporting cost of the materials.
Doty said Winterfest draws about 75 people every year and is one of the many events the University of Illinois Extension provides at forest preserves throughout the year.
She said more than 4,000 children are served through programming each year.
The next winter activity will be in early March with the Maple Syrup Fest.
“Everything is good to go whether there is snow or not,” Doty said of Winterfest. “But it looks like it should be in the 40s, so it’s a perfect day to come outside.”
The Natural Resource Center in Russell Woods is one mile west of Genoa on Route 72.