Nature Center featured on Fun Day

Published 10:23 am Monday, June 20, 2011

Three-year-old John Rollie holds a turtle during naturalist David Stoke's presentation Saturday during the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center's Ecoblitz, held in conjunction with Austin Fun Day. -- Eric Johnson/

Austin was on full display Saturday.

Almost every part of the community was bustling with activity for Family Fun Day — the SPAM Museum, the Mower County Historical Society, Paramount Theatre, Hormel Historic Home and Hormel Institute were all open to public and Ecoblitz brought children to the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center.

“It was awesome,” said Jill Rollie of Ecoblitz, an event where families can participate in free activities at the nature center. “It was super cool. … It’s all hands on.”

Isaac Arnold, left, Ivy Arnold, and Landen Brown check out the treasure they unearthed while geocaching Saturday at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center's Ecoblitz, part of Austin's Fun Day. - Eric Johnson/

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Jill and her husband, Tony, took their 3-year-old son, John, to the nature center Saturday, where he got to hold turtles and a large bull frog.

“I wanted to hold the spider,” John said, but his mother said he was too young to hold the tarantula that Tony held.

Larry Dolphin, executive director of the nature center, said about 80 to100 people came out. The event, which is in its fourth year, is a positive way for people to experience and appreciate nature, Dolphin said.

Most of Saturday’s activities at the nature center were aimed to be interactive to help children learn through actions.

“The more hands on we make it, the better,” Dolphin said.

“When they’re doing it themselves, they learn,” he added

Jill and Tony took John to find water critters at the pond scoop, an activity John apparently enjoyed.

“I want to go back to that,” John told his mother.

Eight-year-old Sam King, of Winona, went to the nature center Saturday “mostly for fun and to learn.”

Lorie King spent the day with her grandson at the nature center on the trail ride, watching naturalist David Stokes speak and they participated in the geocaching.

“We really love the nature center,” Lorie said.

People could also enjoy one of Dolphin’s favorite past times: birdwatching. While Dolphin admitted it’s not always young children’s favorite, there was a rare sighting on Saturday. A volunteer saw a scarlet tanager, a red bird with black wings typically only seen at the center in May. The birds presence in June could mean a pair is nesting at the center, Dolphin said.

Julie Champlin, a nature center employee, said she’s pleased that Ecoblitz is free.

“You can spend the entire day here,” she said.

Many families had picnics on the nature center lawn.

“It was a really great day,” Jill said.

There was plenty of fun to be had all across Austin Saturday. Businesses held the Downtown Rummage Sale and Flea Market on Main Street.

Jerry’s Other Place hosted Dog Days by the River as a fundraiser for the Mower County Humane Society.

At Todd Park, 29 softball teams participated in the annual Twister Tourney, where new dugouts were dedicated two years after they were destroyed by a tornado on June 17, 2009.