morgan bongard | wild green bay | oct. 2016
I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine by staying in the house. So I spend almost all daylight hours in the open air.
~ Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804 – 1864)
We love fall for so many reasons! The air is cooling, the humidity is no longer parrying for bad hair days. The ever-changing landscape, the red haze in the October sunsets, wooden baskets filled to overflowing with fragrant, ripe apples, pie baking and pumpkin-spice in just about everything. This time of year has an abundant harvest and not just in crops and falling leaves, but in activities in and around Green Bay. Let's check out some of the local festivities that may quickly become new traditions for your family.
According to the Department of Tourism's 2016 Fall Color Report, Green Bay is expected to be at peak color the third week of October. This means that you still have time to enjoy all those woodland hiking trails and scenic road drives where Mother Nature is at her showiest before she makes her descent into the long, quiet winter months.
First up on our tour of fall activities is Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary. The glorious colors are just beginning to show. Look out across the lagoon and you'll find outstanding shades of golden yellow, sunset orange and along its shores, the occasional high, red maple with melds of deep plum. The hiking trail canopies are still green, but they are changing on a daily basis into the green-gold and yellow-orange transitions that make many of us fonder of autumn than all other seasons. Join the sanctuary weekly during their Trail Fitness Walks, held each Wednesday at noon throughout the month of October. Enjoy the outdoors while getting fresh air and exercise guided by one of the sanctuary's naturalists. You'll walk at a brisk pace for about 45 minutes on natural terrain, which is uneven and unpaved, so dress accordingly.
For those who prefer a gentler approach to exercise, the sanctuary is hosting yoga classes October 18, 20 and 25 at 6:20 p.m. This class is an indoor event where you'll stretch, tone and relax (perhaps while in corpse pose?) your way into good spirits while listening to ambient sounds to rest the mind and restore the soul.
With the coming of fall colors, bird watchers will be happy to know that many of the winter species have arrived. “Most of the migratory birds have departed,” says Jody Sperduto, the sanctuary's naturalist. “We do have a variety of birds in residence including blue jays, flickers, goldfinches, chickadees and cardinals.” Bird enthusiasts are invited to grab their binoculars and hit the sanctuary's trails, as well as the Nature Center, to get their fill of bird curiosity before their final departures give way to cold, quieter mornings.
From birds to bats, nothing speaks of October more than bats! Bats are a species in crisis, and as of this writing, four of the eight species of cave-dwelling bats in Wisconsin are on the endangered species list due to the widespread and fatal White Nose Syndrome. It is expected to wipe out up to 95 percent of our bat population. There is a growing concern and respect for these creatures, and the sanctuary is hosting a celebration to heighten awareness. Stellaluna is a live bat residing at the sanctuary. During this event, she will be introduced to young audiences on October 16 at 1 p.m. In addition to meeting this live animal ambassador, young guests will enjoy a reading from the book “Stellaluna” as well as watching the animated movie of the same name. “This is the first time this event has been offered,” says Sperduto. “It's geared more for the younger crowd, ages 9 and under. Our young guests will also make a bat project and we will learn about bats from all over the world!” Pre-registration is required by calling (920) 391-3671.
Haunted House Alternative
With autumn comes Halloween, an ever-popular time for children of all ages. But maybe you've grown tired of the usual festivities that accompany the evening of little ghosts and goblins; or perhaps your little Kylo Ren, Batman or Mal Isle is a little too young to enjoy the traditional haunted house or hayride. Nevertheless, if you'd like something to do with the family this Halloween that's fun and safe for all ages, the sanctuary has you covered and this event is educational!
On October 22, beginning at 6 p.m. you and your family are invited to the sanctuary's 23rd Annual Halloween Event. “It's our alternative to the traditional Halloween haunted house; it's very much a family-oriented event,” says chief naturalist Kim Diedrich. “Regardless of the weather, it's an indoor hike that takes place inside the sanctuary's Nature Center and it is scare-free.” In place of screaming teens running with pitchforks and wearing torn overalls, you'll find educational stations where animal characters (portrayed by young actors, elementary through college age) perform skits relating to animals most associated with the witching season. Don't forget to dress up! Kids will each receive a goody bag for participating.
With groups of approximately 15 people, completion of the tour takes roughly 45 minutes. Pre-registration is required by calling (920) 391-3671.
Public Astronomy Night
Up next, Public Astronomy Night, another educational event! This is an outdoor event that families are sure to love! In a partnership with Green Bay's Neville Museum, this outdoor event is held in the sanctuary's Observation Building parking lot, where plenty of telescopes will be set up. “These are well-attended,” says Sperduto. “The scopes are set up in different positions to view Saturn, the moon, as well as other night features. It's a very well organized event.” Members of the Neville Public Museum Astronomy Society (NPMAS) will be on hand to answer questions and direct viewers to the various planets and stars in the sky. This event is scheduled for October 8 at 7 p.m. Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary/Observation Building.
Sanctuary by Starlight
Enjoy the beauty of the outdoors? Come visit the sanctuary to help celebrate their 80th anniversary! Enjoy the setting sun, walk along beautifully lighted pathways while you listen to the birds and soothing sounds of the sanctuary's waterfalls. There will be live music, food, beverages and fun! Event starts at 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. Pre-registration is required by calling (920) 391-3671.
Haunted Chase 5k Race
It's everything the title implies, race or chase! Sponsored by the City of Green Bay Parks, Recreation & Forestry Department, this 5k run takes place on October 21 and is the first of its kind. The run starts out from Bay Beach Amusement Park and continues at the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary. This is a fun run that is intended for anyone who desires to participate in a unique and unconventional 5k experience, complete with unexpected thrills and frights along the route! “It's something different and it get's people outdoors. Participants can either be a runner or a chaser!” says a smiling Diedrich. All ages are welcome, but a less-scary family run is up first at 6 p.m. Immediately following the family race, the course will turn into the Haunted Chase, and then the thrills and frights will really begin! For more information on participating as a runner or as a chaser, please visit greenbaywi.gov.
Morgan Bongard is a freelance writer with special interest in the arts, histories and humanities. She is the author of the upcoming memoir 'BananaSeatTenSpeed.' Find her and more of her work at www.BananaSeatTenSpeed.com.