If you feel a case of cabin fever creeping up this winter, the Forest Preserve District has scheduled an event that will help you chill out and enjoy the season.
“Snow Day Festival” is set for noon-4 p.m. Saturday, January 19, at Plum Creek Nature Center in Crete Township. This year’s lineup will feature snowball fights, snowshoes, ice carving and more. New this year is an appearance by Elsa and Anna, characters from the Disney movie “Frozen."
“Visitors will be able to see a short performance then meet and take photos with the characters,” said Suzy Lyttle, an interpretive naturalist at Plum Creek. “This will happen in a cozy warming tent. Plus, we will be showing the movie in the nature center with free popcorn!”
Another new fest feature this year is the snowball fight arena. “Even if there is no snow, we have tons of plush snowballs at the ready,” Lyttle said. “There will be an area with hay bales perfect for ducking and hiding.”
Ice bowling, ice play in Spot’s Playground and ice carving will make a return to the fest.
“But this year we are getting two ice carvers,” Lyttle said. “They will be in different locations on the grounds, so visitors will have to check the carvers' progress throughout the day.”
If you need to warm up during the fest, there will be an outdoor fire and some “ooey gooey” s’mores to snack on, Lyttle added.
Plum Creek’s 40-foot sled hill will be ready for action during the fest. You can conquer the hill with your own plastic sled or one of Plum Creek’s giant sled tubes.
“But if there is no snow, visitors can still try out snowshoes,” Lyttle said. “It is worth a try, with or without snow. Walking becomes a whole new challenge in snowshoes. Race your family and try your best not to fall! At the end, you will be smiling from ear to ear and maybe cracking up with laughter as your friend wobbles along.”
Fest attendees also can take part in a “Free the Tree” restoration activity. Participants will help a burr oak by removing invasive species that are robbing it of its land, air and space and preventing its acorns from springing to life.
“Every year, for the last couple of years, this restoration activity has allowed more and more sunlight to reach the forest floor that surrounds this majestic burr oak,” said interpretive naturalist Kate Caldwell. “What has been revealed is an emergence of the native flowers, grasses and shrubs that have remained dormant. They have returned to be the tree’s companions once again. Restoration re-establishes the burr oak’s habitat and returns it to the native landscape that has occupied this land for hundreds of years. And the activity connects people to the value of restoration and to the value of native plants in their backyard!”
The fest also will feature arts and crafts activities, and free winter giveaways will be given to the first 200 visitors. Registration is not required for this free, all-ages program.
“Winter is a time when it’s so easy to stay wrapped up on the couch getting sucked into hours of binge-watching TV shows,” Lyttle said. “This fest gives you an excuse to get outside, get moving and enjoy the outdoors!”
Whether you make it out to “Snow Day Festival” or not, keep in mind that Plum Creek is the Forest Preserve’s winter activity hub.
“We rent snowshoes and sled tubes throughout winter,” Lyttle said. “Goodenow Grove has amazing trails, and visitors are sure to discover something new with each visit.”