If you go
What: Allen County Parks Department’s Sol Fest
When: Noon to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; noon to 5 p.m. for kids area
Where: Bowman Lake, Fox Island County Park, 7324 Yohne Road
Admission: $5 a person, free for children 11 and younger; activities fees may apply; call 449-3180 or go to www.allencountyparks.org
This may be one weekend that if someone suggests you “take a hike,” you do it.
The Allen County Parks Department’s annual Sol Fest offers people of all ages a chance to enjoy the outdoors. The two-day festival Saturday and Sunday will have music performances, food vendors and hayrides at Fox Island County Park.
Proceeds from the event will benefit the organization’s nature education efforts for local school groups and programs that are not able to afford field trips to Allen County parks.
Starting in 2000 as the 25th anniversary celebration of nature education at Fox Island, Sol Fest has become the park’s preeminent event for people looking for local music and a chance to get outdoors. Parks and education manager Ron Zartman says it also is a time for new families to check out what Fox Island has to offer at an affordable price.
“It’s a great way to bring out people who don’t usually come out, but it also brings people back who may need something extra,” Zartman says.
This year, the festival includes a mix of music from the Jug Huffers, Dave Todoran, the Sunny Taylor Band, Todd Harrold and others throughout the weekend at Fox Island’s Bowman Lake. Zartman says that while the park usually does not allow watercraft on the lake, Fort Wayne Outfitters will offer kayak and canoe rentals for the weekend.
“It’s a rare opportunity to be on the lake, and we hope people take advantage of that,” Zartman says.
The kids’ area will be open on both days and will have animal demonstrations, crafts and nature hikes.
For those looking to be completely offline from the outside world, the 600-acre park contains the largest contiguous forest in the county and a 40-foot-high glacial sand dune for visitors to trek.
“In my mind, it’s one of the best days to be at Fox Island. The wildflowers are in bloom, the birds are migrating back, and the mosquitoes aren’t out. It’s great day to be out in the woods,” Zartman says. “There’s a lot happening this time of year, so hopefully people will discover that.”
Zartman says the organization has been able to raise $5,000 most years to bring more students out of the classrooms and into the woods. Proceeds also benefit the Allen County Parks Department naturalists who visit schools, as well as help the organization prepare for the festival each year. He says it’s important for young students to be engaged with their environment in order for the community to continue celebrating Fox Island for generations to come.
“We have definitely seen over the years that kids have less and less access to the outdoors and nature,” he says. “We have seen kids who are afraid to walk on grass – that’s the extreme of it, but we have seen that. We just think it’s important that every one is familiar with nature so that they care for it and hopefully love it and protect it.”