Wednesday, April 10, 2013
The Bulls Bay Nature Festival – From the Forest to the Sea was a community event to get people outside to enjoy nature. This inaugural event happened on March 23 in the Francis Marion National Forest on the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, at Camp Sewee, Hampton Plantation State Historic Site and the Sewee Visitor and Environmental Education Center in Awendaw. Despite the cold, wet weather, more than 200 people of all ages came out to celebrate our unique natural places and abundant wildlife.
Nature enthusiasts accompanied noted ornithologist Dr. Dennis Forsythe to Ion Swamp to catch sight of endangered Red-cockaded woodpeckers and migratory songbirds like Northern Parulas.
Nature Adventure naturalists took folks on a kayak paddle in the Wambaw Creek Wilderness while foresters lead others into a Carolina Bay to see pond cypress, red bay and pitcher plants indicative to this rare forest area. Tim Penninger, local historian, lead a van tour to tell the story of tar kilns, timber operations and civil war batteries in the Francis Marion.
On Cape Romain’s Bulls Island, people went on an island auto tour with Coastal Expedition and refuge staff to see the Old Fort, spectacular Boneyard Beach and “gator” ponds known as Alligator Alley. Hampton Plantation state park staff guided visitors through the historic antebellum house and the beautiful plantation gardens.
At Camp Sewee, kids practiced casting bait nets and learned how to catch blue crabs while at the Sewee Center, the kids learned their all-important fishing knots and honed their casting techniques before they dropped their lines into the Sewee Pond to reel in catfish. At the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources simulator fishing van they caught Blue Marlin.
During the archery workshops, children and parents lined up to learn techniques with the bow and arrow and used their newly acquired skills to try and hit the archery targets. Families went on a wetland nature art walk with local watercolor artist Jannah Dupre, wove pieces of sweet grass basketry with Gullah-Geechee artisan Vera Manigault, learned about the endangered red wolves at Sewee, saw venomous snakes like the cottonmouth and diamondback rattle snake at the reptile demonstration, and watched with fascination as the Center for Birds of Prey gave flying demonstrations with raptors.
Lincoln Middle-High School National Art Honor Society students set up a Wildlife Art Exposition to display their winning Junior Duck Stamp artwork as well as other beautiful pieces. The McClellanville Arts Council, photographer Ben Sumrell and local craftsman Brantley Cumbee joined the young artists, showing with their striking natural works of art. Lincoln Middle, St. James Santee and Cape Romain Environmental Education Charter School students in grades 3-5 and 6-8 participated in the festival Wildlife Art Contest. Winners for the 3-5 grades category were Nathaniel Davis firstt place, Grace Fulcinitte second place and Zach Brinson third place. Honorable mention included Jonah Wine, Carlyn Garner, Trinity Avery, Ebony McCormick and Killian Morrison. Winners for the 6-8 grades category were Jalen Smith first place, Javier Randolph second place and Naajai Manigault third place. Kaliah Ragland received honorable mention.
A 2014 wildlife calendar, comprised of the students’ winning artwork, will be sold at the Sewee Visitor Center and community schools with proceeds to benefit the school’s art programs. The first and second grade students from St. James Santee and CREECS also participated in the festival, giving the Sewee red wolves, previously known as 1703 and 1705, the names of Haley and Sierra.
The day was filled with music as local musicians Kathie Livingston, the Lincoln Steel Band, The After English, Flat City and the Awendaw Community Singers provided great entertainment. The Awendaw Fire Department, Greater Zion AME, Nebo AME, Ocean Grove United Methodist and McClellanville United Methodist churches prepared delicious homemade meals, burgers, hot dogs and desserts and the Sewee to Santee Development Corporation provided beverages and snacks.
Dr. Patrick McMillan, Director of Clemson University Museum of Natural Sciences and host and director of SC ETV’s “Expeditions with Patrick McMillan,” closed the festival with the keynote, an inspiring presentation on the evolving forces of both nature and man that shape our landscapes.
Fifteen community partners planned the nature festival and include Cape Romain National Wildlife Refige, Francis Marion National Forest, S.C. Department of Natural Resources, The Center for Birds of Prey, Camp Sewee, Clemson Cooperative Extension, Hampton Plantation State Historic Site, SEWEE Association, Sewee to Santee Community Development Corporation, Sewee Outpost, Coastal Expeditions, Nature Adventure Outfitters, Awendaw Green and the Towns of Awendaw and McClellanville.
The partners thank the guides and instructors, volunteers and Lincoln Middle-High School JROTC Sergeant Tinney, Sergeant Kirkland and student members for their invaluable assistance with the festival.
Visit www.fws.gov/seweecenter for festival information or call 843-928-3368.
Tricia Lynch is the visitor services manager of the Cape Romain National Wildelife Refuge.