As the summer heat abandons the River City, Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve becomes ideal for outdoor events among fall’s scenic backdrop. Next month, two annual events, the Wandering Owl Wine & Beer Trail and the Harvest Festival & Hayrides, showcase the 200-acre woods in its peak and offer visitors a glimpse of nature after hours.
The Oct. 20 Wandering Owl event includes walking a network of trails and sampling from more than a dozen local wineries, breweries, and restaurants. A silent auction — with artwork, jewelry, and gift baskets — and relaxing music by regional guitarist and singer Andy Novell (think James Taylor) will be featured. New this year, says Stephanie Mosbacher, director of development and membership at the preserve, is a gourmet s’more station. This gooey fall treat complements the crackling fire and “takes you back to when you camped as a child,” she says.
On Oct. 27, families are invited to experience Wesselman Woods at twilight during the Harvest Festival & Hayrides event. Children will learn how nature prepares for winter, watch a raptor show, create crafts, and more. The most popular activity, says Lauren Preske, the preserve’s director of education, is the horse-drawn hayride through the park. “It’s a chance for families to spend quality time together and be around all of nature’s sights, sounds, and smells,” she says. This year, the nature society extended the event’s hours and reduced the ticket price, which Preske anticipates will garner more community involvement.