By JIMMY NESBITT Courier & Press staff writer 464-7501 or firstname.lastname@example.org
June 5, 2005
Seven-year-old Eli Hawkins stared eye to eye with a jumpy bullsnake, his face inches away from
the reptile's glass cage. "Do any of the snakes have venom?" he asked. "No," replied Lauren Preske,
outreach coordinator for Wesselman Nature Society. "What is this one's name?" Hawkins asked, pointing
to another cage. Curious children quizzed Preske all afternoon, asking question after question about
the wildlife display, one of the attractions at Saturday's Pickin' on the Pigeon Music
Festival at Garvin Park in Evansville.
Preske enjoyed the attention. "I'm trying to teach (children)
why wildlife is being endangered," she said.
In addition to snakes, the display included a turtle, a turkey vulture and a
red-tailed hawk. All of the animals were adopted after they had been injured
in the wild, Preske said. The birds had been shot, and some of
the reptiles had been hit by cars.
After Hawkins observed each of the animals, he concluded that the snakes were his favorite.
"I liked the snake because he moved the most," said Hawkins, who came with his mother,
LeighAnn, and 9-year-old sister, Bayleigh, all of Richland City, Ind. But the birds were
cool, too, "because they fly" and the ducks "because they swim," he said. The daylong
festival, which celebrates National Trails Day, started last year as a fund-raiser for
Canoe Evansville, a Wesselman Nature Society program. Program coordinator Amy Brown said
she hoped to raise $7,000 to $10,000 on Saturday.
Canoe Evansville has about 40 "very loyal volunteers," Brown said. "One of the volunteers
is 88, and he is still canoeing at 88 years old." All of the festival attractions -
the wildlife display, canoe rides and the rock climbing wall - bring children outdoors
and encourage them to learn about nature, Brown said. Some parents "get busy, and they
use things like the television for baby-sitting" instead of taking their children outside,
she said. "There needs to be more education in the schools," Brown added.
Some adults came just to hear live music. Seven regional bands played a variety
of folk, classic rock and bluegrass. Kim Stevens of Evansville brought her two
children, 4-year-old Micah and 2-year-old Issac. "They wanted to touch the snake,"
she said. After learning about Canoe Evansville, Stevens said she
would like to get involved in the program.
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