Celebrate the Great Outdoors at Nature Fest April 22

Celebrate the great outdoors at Nature Fest April 22


COOKEVILLE — To Tennessee Tech University biology professor Dan Combs, snakes aren’t scary. And he has no problem allowing these slithering reptiles to wrap their cool, scaly bodies around his arm.


“A snake is not some evil creature that needs to be destroyed,” he said. “They are very useful and interesting animals.”

It’s a message Combs will be sharing during Nature Fest on April 22.


The 13th annual event – presented by the TTU Biology Department, Cookeville Leisure Services, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the Nature Fest organizing committee – is a celebration of the great outdoors that will include numerous hikes, lectures, workshops and activities for all ages at Cane Creek Park from 7 a.m.-5 p.m. and Dogwood Park from 6-10 p.m.


Everything is free, and no registration is required.


“Since we have an abundance of natural resources and people who are experts around the Cookeville area, we try each year to bring something new and exciting that is part of our natural world to Nature Fest,” Alfred Ballinger, Nature Fest committee chairman, said.

During Combs’ session on snakes, participants will learn interesting facts about the creature and even touch one if they wish.

“We’ll mostly have non-venomous native species and a few non-natives that are just pretty,” he said. “We’ll also have some venomous snakes, but they’ll be in cages.”

Nature Fest participants can also enjoy sessions on wildlife tracking, bird watching, fishing, beekeeping, flint knapping, knot-tying, gold panning and much more. In addition, TWRA’s wildlife exhibit trailer will be in the Hilltop shelter parking lot from 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m.

“We have something for all age groups,” Ballinger said. “It’s not just for little kids. Grandmas and grandpas can also learn some things.”

Following the daytime activities at Cane Creek Park (201 C C Camp Road, Cookeville), live birds of prey will be on display at Dogwood Park (30 E. Broad St., Cookeville) at 6 p.m., followed by a new addition to Nature Fest, “Nature Movies After Dark,” sponsored by WCTE.

The Nature Fest schedule is as follows:


Cane Creek Park: Nature Walks

  • 7-9:45 a.m.Bird Walk: Wake up early and go birding with a resident expert birder. Bring binoculars and a keen ear. Meet at the paddleboat area. Instructor: Dan Combs.
  • 10-11:45 a.m.Tree Walk: Learn to identify trees by shape, bark, foliage and other clues. Meet at the TWRA trailer near Hilltop shelter. Instructor: Dan Combs.
  • 12-1:45 p.m.Wildflower Walk: Check out the flowering plants and learn their names as you walk through Cane Creek Park. Meet at the trailhead near Hilltop Shelter. Instructor: Dan Twyman.

Cane Creek Park: Hilltop Shelter

  • 10-11:45 a.m.Flint Knapping: See a live demonstration of making arrowheads from flint. Instructor: John Zentz.
  • 10-11:45 a.m.Creek Critters: Explore the diversity of species that occupy creeks and streams with the Department of Environment and Conservation. See live critters, too.
  • 12-1:45 p.m.Container Gardens for the Urban Farmer: Grow food anywhere with easy container methods that anyone can manage. Instructor: Randy Dodson.
  • 2-4 p.m.Exotic Insects: See an extensive insect collection and talk to the collector himself. Instructor: Nadeer Youssef.
  • 2-4 p.m.Beekeeper Exhibition: Learn all about honey bees and beekeeping. Instructor: David LaFerney.
  • 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m.TWRA Wildlife Exhibit: Visit the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency educational exhibit in the shelter parking lot.

Cane Creek Park: Courtside Shelter

  • 10-11:45 a.m.Wildlife Tracking: Use wildlife telemetry equipment to find transmitters hidden in the woods. Instructor: Steve Hayslette.
  • 10-11:45 a.m.Knots: Join Boy Scouts of America to learn to tie a few simple and useful knots in a short time. Rope will be provided.
  • 12-1:45 p.m.Scavenger Hunt: Look for items found in nature (and some that aren’t) during this activity that is fun for both kids and parents. Instructor: Beth Smith.
  • 2-4 p.m.Snakes-s-s-s-s-s: Learn interesting facts and myths about snakes. Live snakes will be present. Instructor: Dan Combs.

Cane Creek Park: Fishing Pier

  • 10-11:45 a.m.Fishing Techniques: Join the Tennessee Tech University Student Fisheries Association to learn techniques and equipment for successful fishing. Hands-on chances to participate.

Cane Creek Park: Duck Feeding Area (near the boat ramp)

  • 12-3 p.m.Gold Panning: Pan for gold and identify common minerals with the Tennessee Tech University Geology Club. Materials provided.

Dogwood Park

  • 6-7:30 p.m.Live Birds of Prey: Learn interesting facts and stories about various birds of prey. Live birds will be displayed in the Dogwood Performance Pavilion. Instructor: Dave Haggard.
  • 8-10 p.m.Nature Movies After Dark: See two hour-long films on the big screen outdoors at the Dogwood Performance Pavilion. The films, sponsored by WCTE, are “Super Hummingbirds” and “Animal Homes: Location, Location, Location.” Bring blankets and lawn chairs for these family-friendly films.

For more information about Nature Fest, call Cookeville Leisure Services at 931-520-4386 or visit www.cookeville-tn.gov/ls/events/nature-fest or www.facebook.com/NatureFest.