Lawrence Foster Photo Children fish for Channel Catfish at the Dragonfly Festival, Saturday.
Record Staff Writer
The clear morning was perfect: quiet, peaceful and brimming with anticipation for activities to start. Then, breaking the silence were the excited voices of kids as the 12th annual Dragonfly Festival got underway Saturday morning at Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge.
Designed as an outreach to the community, the festival is meant to teach the residents of Roswell about the wildlife refuge, said Outdoor Recreation Planner and the festival’s lead coordinator, Steve Alvarez.
“They organized it as an idea to get people to come here,” Alvarez said. “About that same time, they were doing special studies, and they found a large population of dragonflies out here. So they emphasized them. They want people not to know just about dragonflies, but about all the rich biology out here at the refuge.”
And the concept of drawing attention and spreading awareness of what the refuge has to offer has been incredibly successful. According to Alvarez, the park had very little attention before the start of the festival. It was quiet, he said.
But now they get visitors from all over the state to help with the festival, and popularity has increased. As more people gain awareness of the Dragonfly Festival, the resources have grown and activities have gotten better. This year they tried to add more activities for children. One particularly popular activity was a little pond with catfish where kids could fish.
“It is, like, fun to fish — like, you get fishes,” said 6 (almost 7)-year-old, Austin Pahler. Meanwhile, his sister Ava Pahler, 3, just kept repeating “fishy” in her infatuation with the creatures. Their father, Eric Pahler, said it was their first time out to the festival, and they came with their Cub Scout group.
“I have driven around here and shown people the area, but I never knew they had a festival here until last year,” Eric said. “It has been great. We went down and did the wildlife trail. That was absolutely worth it.”
There were a series of trails and tours to take advantage of. Starting at 6:30 a.m., an Early Bird Tour was available, but the real day started at 8 a.m., with Dragonfly and Wildlife Tours. The Dragonfly Tour — the most popular tour — allowed people to see dragonflies up close while experts taught about more than 90 species.
Meanwhile, on the Refuge Wildlife Tour, a wildlife biologist brought visitors to various field stations where they learned about all the different animals that inhabit the refuge. And if one’s interest was specifically focused on birds, the Birding Tour allowed visitors to discover around 350 different species.
These activities were great for old and young, but the kids still found the fish more interesting. However, the children who wanted to do more than fish had the opportunity to enjoy a Kids Treasure Hunt, a guided discovery where they learned how to handle plants and catch animals based on techniques used for biological studies.
But all of the activities were meant for parents and kids alike to learn while also having fun.
“You know, I just wanted to get out with my kids and do something meaningful and fun with them, and this looked like a good opportunity,” said Steve Jenkins, who is new in town and was visiting the festival for the first time with his two kids, aged 4 and 7. “It has been great. They have had a great time. They enjoyed coloring and getting to see some of the animals. They have had a great time.”
The whole festival was only possible thanks to a lot of volunteers and cooperation between various organizations, including Healthy Kids of Chaves County, Roswell Birds Club and Roswell Astronomy Club, all of which had tables set up.
“It is a lot of fun because a big portion of organizing it is done through our volunteers, and our staff is really involved,” Alvarez said. “It is a project where both groups work together. That has been a lot of fun. Everyone is really dedicated.”
Dragonfly Tours and festivities will continue today, with the last tour starting at noon.