In 1993, the Ned Smith Nature and Art Festival began with a small gathering at Seal Park next to the Millersburg High School, held in October to coincide with Ned Smith’s birthday.
This year, the festival turns 25, and organizers are celebrating by shaking things up a bit.
They’ve moved the date to the end of July, added more things to do and changed locations.
The festival, after that early start, had long been held at MYO Park along the Susquehanna River. But it now will take place at its namesake location.
“A new venue, the festival will be held at the Ned Smith Center to show off the center itself, its multitude of hiking trails, educational facilities, three beautiful galleries and state-of-the-art amphitheater,” said Executive Director John Booth.
The festival has grown into the center’s largest event, with an average of 4,000 attendees each year. This year’s celebration will feature numerous workshops, including favorites such as “Paws, Claws, Scales and Tails,” and a talk and demonstration by Zoo America, which will bring in a variety of animals and birds.
The children’s area is always well attended, featuring popular activities like face painting and fish-print T-shirts. Guides will take young nature-lovers out on Wiconisco Creek to search out aquatic organisms. Each year, the Ned Smith Center hosts a youth art contest, and winners will be announced at the festival.
For both kids and adults, the festival will have demonstrations on edible wild plants to teach which are safe to eat and how to properly prepare them. Another exhibit will showcase local trees and how to identify different species.
For dog-lovers, there will be demonstrations by retrievers, a program to show how service dogs are trained to help their partners, and what bloodhounds can do to find people, whether a lost child or an escaped convict.
If snakes are more your thing, representatives of the Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center will stop by with a demonstration of Pennsylvania snakes. A snake handler will even be on hand to demonstrate live snakes. Perhaps less menacing, the center will feature an exhibit on honeybees and beekeeping.
New this year will be a visit by National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore. His life project, the “Photo Ark,” is an effort to document every species in captivity, ranging from the smallest insect to the largest mammal. Sartore will be at the Ned Smith Center the day of the festival to discuss his works, which are on display in the Olewine Gallery.
“We also will be hosting a number of talented vendors,” said Sadie Martin, the center’s marketing and program coordinator.
For instance, Carlee Seele is a glass artist from New Cumberland and the owner of Moss Creek Art. The Susquehanna Wood Turners Club will be turning bowls and other wooden items. And as always, the Pennsylvania Bluebird Society and Ned Smith Chapter of Ducks Unlimited will be busy building bluebird and wood duck boxes.
For hikers, there are 500 acres of mountains and meadows memorialized by Ned Smith in his “Gone for the Day” columns. These include 12 miles of trails, ranging from wheelchair accessible to rugged.
After the festival programs conclude, the semi-acoustic, classic rock band HIP 450 will perform. For this concert, the center will feature food by Gene Odato’s Artisan Pizza, and a local favorite, the Grill and Sports Bar.
“Don’t miss this opportunity to see our beautiful nature and arts center while enjoying a full day of food, education and fun entertainment in the great outdoors,” Booth said.
The Ned Smith Nature and Art Festival takes place July 28, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Ned Smith Center for Nature and Art, 176 Water Company Rd., Millersburg. For more information, contact the center at www.nedsmithcenter.org or call 717-692-3699.