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May Day, Nature Play draws hundreds

The children circled the maypole, each with a ribbon in hand until the various colors lined the pole from top to bottom.

That was just one of the events about 600 people enjoyed at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center Saturday during the first “May Day, Nature Play.”

“I think it’s going to be a great community event,” said Merlene Stiles, the education outreach coordinator for KSMQ, as the first families were beginning to arrive.

Stiles helped organize the May Day, Nature Play to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Sesame Street.

KSMQ president Marianne Potter said the celebration was a great way to acknowledge the show that’s spanned three generations while also getting young children outside.

“I know that young families are always looking for things to do with their kids, and things that are affordable,” Potter said of the free event. “This is absolutely affordable.”

From 1 to 4 p.m., young families could participate in a number of activities, including eating Sesame Street birthday cake. In the Ruby Rupner Auditorium, children could get washable paw print tattoos, and they were doing rubbings.

Parents could take their children to the log cabin where volunteers read stories. Some older children climbed the large stone outside the visitor’s center for their parents to take pictures. Outside, there were gunny sack races and egg and spoon races.

Along with the celebration of 40 years of Sesame Street, there were also traditional May Day activities, like a maypole and May baskets.

“We’re really glad that the people are coming out to take advantage of all the activities that we have going on today,” Potter said. “We couldn’t have asked for a better day.”

Sesame Street’s theme this year is nature in your neighborhood, so Stiles said the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center was an ideal place to hold the event.

“What better place to celebrate than in Austin’s Hormel Nature Center,” Stiles said.

The event was co-sponsored by the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center, which had staff in the visitor’s center, where people could pet snakes and view other displays.

Stiles, a former environmental science teacher and a member of the Isaac Walton League, said one of the main intentions of the event was to get children off the couch and outside.

Families could explore the nature center’s trails and participate in activities along the way. One trail activity was matching the colors on a color wheel to colors in nature.

“It’s all to make learning about nature fun,” Stiles said.

“We want children to get outside, to be outside, to enjoy nature and connect with nature,” Stiles said.

Scot McGee and Heidi Harrabi did the ecology trail activity with their son Ayden, 4.

“It’s sort of a treasure hunt, but without the candy or toys,” Scot said.

They went to the nature center Saturday to celebrate May Day, which they celebrate each year. They planned to attend the May Day parade in the Twin Cities on Sunday.

“We celebrate May Day every year, but we think it’s great that the nature center is actually doing something for May Day,” Heidi said.

Iowans Evan and Donna Blom brought their grandchildren, Emma, 6, and Mady, 2. The girls’ mother saw an advertisement for the event on television, and Emma wanted to come see the show for Guka the barred owl in the learning center at 2:30 p.m.

Before seeing the owl show, the girls received washable animal print tattoos in the nature center auditorium.

Sarah Todd brought her 4-year-old daughter Gabby Todd out to the event.

“She’s been pretty excited,” Sarah said. “She’s been wanting to come.”

Sarah said the event was fun, and added that Gabby could learn about nature.

“I think it’s very educational,” Sarah said.

Sarah is originally from Iowa and moved to Austin about a year ago. She said the event was a good way to check out the nature center.

Karen and Bill Hart watched the maypole being braided with their 5-year-old son Stirling.

“It’s nice for them to do the things they hear about in books and on TV,” Karen said.