Winterfest to celebrate county nature

Published: Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014 5:30 a.m.CDT
(Rob Winner –
Last year, visitors to Genoa's WinterFest at the Russell Woods Forest Preserve ride in wagon being drawn by two Belgian Draft horses owned by the Nielsen family of Waterman, including twins Sarah Nielsen (left) and Matt Nielsen.

GENOA – In a few weeks, Waterman resident Phil Nielsen will get to show off what he calls his “gentle giants” again.

The University of Illinois Extension will host its annual Winterfest from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Jan. 18 at the Natural Resource Education Center in Russell Woods Forest Preserve, 11750 Route 72, Genoa.

Nielsen, along with his son and daughter, twins Matthew and Sarah, will offer horse-drawn wagon rides for a freewill donation from 1 to 4 p.m.

Two Belgian draft horses named Ted and Bob will push riders for about 10 to 15 minutes along a road that runs through the woods and Kishwaukee River, Nielsen said.

“It’s a time to connect with nature and the things our grandparents would have seen,” he said. “Now, you have the chance to experience it being out in the winter landscape and [seeing] the beauty in it.”

The event also will include an interpretive morning hike at 10 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., a bird viewing window where extension educator Peggy Doty will discuss bird behavior, the annual reading of “The Mitten” by Jan Brett, make-and-take crafts throughout the day and snacks from The Prairie Gems 4-H Club, according to a University of Illinois Extension news release.

All activities are free, but donations are accepted, the release states.

Nielsen, who has been participating in Winterfest for many years, said his horses have muscular necks and chests which helps them pull riders with ease.

“When you’re looking at the horses and see the amount of work they do, the gentle giant nickname really fits them,” he said. “It’s pleasant for everybody.”

If you go
What: Winterfest
When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Jan. 18
Where: Natural Resource Education Center in Russell Woods Forest Preserve, 11750 Route 72, Genoa

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