Annual Farm and Forest Festival celebrates simple living, sustainability


Visitors ride in a wagon pulled by horses during the 2012 Farm and Forest Festival at Morningside Nature Center. This year’s event runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the center on East University Avenue. (Matt Stamey/Staff photographer/file)

Published: Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, April 17, 2013 at 12:10 p.m.

Hundreds of people are expected to gather right before Earth Day to celebrate simple living and sustainability in Gainesville.

Facts

Farm and Forest Festival

What: Annual event featuring food, music, demonstrations, animals, environmental displays, wagon rides and more
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday
Where: Morningside Nature Center, 3540 E. University Ave.
Cost: $5 adults, $3 children 3 to 12
Info: 334-3326, www.cityofgainesvilleparks.org

The city’s 35th annual Farm and Forest Festival is planned Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Morningside Nature Center.

Gary Paul, volunteer services coordinator for Gainesville’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department, said the focus of the festival is usually centered around historical re-enactments, but this year’s event will focus on sustainability and the environment.

“The whole gist of this is to help people learn how to live more lightly on the Earth,” he said.

The festival will feature food, music, environmental displays, guided walks, horse-drawn wagon rides and more. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for children 3 to 12 and free for children 2 and younger.

He said he hopes the festival will encourage visitors to appreciate the variety of plants at the nature center. He said the center has nearly 600 plant species and almost 280 acres of land.

“It’s very easy to see a lot in a small area,” he said. “You really have the sense of being in Florida the way it was before the Europeans came. It’s pretty nice.”

The festival also will feature talks on eating locally grown and organic food. “There’s such a big local food and organic food movement in this town,” he said.

Paul said he thinks the festival’s new focus will be successful and attract people for years to come.

“We think we’re onto something there,” he said. “We think it’s something they can build on and really make it the go-to place (for sustainability).”

Festival coordinator Sally Wazny agreed. She said the event will kick off the parks department’s Earth Day celebrations.

“That emphasis on sustainability is something we’re very, very excited about,” she said.

She said the event is an opportunity for the community to celebrate nature, and she hopes to see about 700 to 1,000 people attend.

“In general, the highlight of this year’s festival is the transformation from a festival that was really very farm-centric ... to being a festival that is really focusing on environmental issues,” she said.

The festival will feature activities like blacksmithing and flint-knapping. “We wanted to maintain that farm concept and that farm idea, but put more forest into the Farm and Forest Festival,” she said.

Paul said he hopes the event shows visitors a different side of Gainesville.

“None of our events are really about making money,” he said. “They’re about educating people to some aspect of our world and our culture.”

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