Outdoor, indoor fun in Genoa

By Keisha Howerth

DeKalb County residents can revel in the winter season with family and friends this Saturday at Winterfest in Genoa.

The University of Illinois Extension will host the annual event from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Natural Resource Education Center in Russell Woods Forest Preserve, 11750 Route 72. All activities at Winterfest are free, but donations are accepted to support the cost of materials. The Prairie Gems 4-H Club will be selling snacks throughout the day.

Extension educator and program coordinator Peggy Doty said for more than 15 years, residents have come together at the Natural Resource Education Center to enjoy and learn more about the winter season.

“It’s a nice destination,” Doty said. “[People] can feel warm and cozy as they look out at the animals from inside the building.”

The event starts indoors with Doty, where she’ll be identifying birds and discussing their behaviors. Doty said the bird viewing is a reoccurring activity at Winterfest because “people tend to notice [birds] more in the winter.”

Doty will also be leading a nature hike through the woods at 10 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Horse-drawn wagon rides through the park will be given from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Visitors can then come inside for the annual reading of “The Mitten” by Jan Brett at 2 p.m. Other activities throughout the day at Winterfest include wood carving, fire building and an indoor scavenger hunt.

Connie Handel, extension educator and program coordinator, said this year’s Winterfest will bring back rope-making, a popular activity that wasn’t available last year.

“[We] don’t do all the same things every year,” Handel said.

Candle dipping, an outdoor activity at Winterfest, will be offered from 10 a.m. to noon.

“There’s always a line for the candle dipping,” Handel said.

The event was created to get more people to enjoy winter, a season that Doty said is not well-appreciated. With a day full of activities taking place both inside and outside, Doty and Handel hope vistors learn there is more to the season than snow.

“[We] want to show what nature has to offer during the winter,” Handel said.