Just north of the New York-Pennsylvania border, hundreds of area residents experienced more than just snow in the air.
Attendees the Jamestown Audubon Society's annual Snowflake Festival were met with a variety of options to experience fun and excitement on an otherwise typical winter day.
The festival, which ran from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, provided an opportunity for families to explore the outdoors, enjoy kid-friendly activities and learn about various Earth-friendly practices. The activity schedule included: hikes with a naturalist, to see what is happening in the winter world; birds of prey presentations, including hawks and owls, by Wild Spirit Education; horse-drawn sleigh rides; kicksled demonstrations by the Tails of the Tundra Siberian Husky Rescue; and a demonstration on how to turn a backyard into a haven for wildlife.
Sled dogs at festival
For many, the hourly kicksled demonstrations with Siberian husky sled dogs, were a big draw. According to Pauline Bray, a volunteer with the Husky Rescue, both the sled demonstrations and the dogs have consistently received much attention at the festival.
"This is probably at least our fourth year (at the Snowflake Festival)," she said. "(People) seem to like it. It's not something you see every day, and people get to see that the dogs really do want to run. A lot of people have the thought that we make them or force them to run, but we definitely aren't making them (run) by any means."
The kicksled demonstrations started with a brief lecture, after which the dogs were hooked up to the sleds and ran off. The sleds followed a trail through a wooded area before returning back to their starting point.
Jason Keklak, a Wild Spirit Education volunteer, shows off a juvenile red-shouldered hawk at the Jamestown Audubon Society’s Snowflake Festival.
P-J photo by Gavin Paterniti
"You really just have to teach them commands and conditioning," said Mark Maksin, also a volunteer with the Husky Rescue. "They love to run, especially if you get them hooked up with an experienced dog they'll fall right into it."
According to Bray, a team of 16 dogs can travel at about 20 mph for a short time, while her team averages at approximately 6 mph.
Another main attraction for the festival was the birds of prey presentations. Two separate presentations were hosted by Wild Spirit Education: hawks at 11:30 a.m., and owls at 1 p.m.
According to Jason Keklak, a Wild Spirit volunteer who was sporting a red-shouldered hawk on his arm, the birds are domesticated and used for educational purposes.
"(The hawk) is imprinted, which means he was raised by humans," said Keklak. "So he has a bit of an identity crisis, he's not sure if he's a bird or a human. If we were to release him, he would be a nuisance and a danger to himself. As a result, he'll be with us for life, serving as an educator and an ambassador for his species. With us, he could live well into his 20s or 30s. In the wild, that's usually not the case because there are predators, and the averages are pretty low on their life expectancy because there is a very high mortality rate when they're young."
Paul Fehringer, founder and executive director of Wild Spirit, said that his organization has participated in the Snowflake Festival for about five years. According to Fehringer, Wild Life's educational programs try to focus on wildlife that is pertinent to the area.
"We mostly try to work on Western New York species, things that you'll find here. We try to teach about the local environment, because there are so many people who don't know about what's in their backyard."
Paul Snyder, who was with his wife, Holly, and children, Charlie and Lilly, said that he brought his family to see the birds.
"This is the first year that we've come to the Snowflake Festival," said Snyder, who is a resident of Westfield. "We wanted to help support the Audubon Society and take in some of the festivities check out some of the wildlife and crafts. That's basically the reason why we came here. We were also really interested in the wild bird presentation. We've been here for about two and a half hours."
Beth Barnes, grandmother of Charlie and Lilly, said that she and her husband will be getting a membership to the Audubon Society for their grandchildren.
The Jamestown Audubon Center and Sanctuary puts on the Snowflake Festival each year. It is traditionally held on the first Saturday in February. Admission to the event is a $5 parking fee.