I'm writing this article 18 days before the Snowflake Festival. I look out the window at dirty patches of snow, wide expanses of grass, and muddy little dirt piles turned up by moles. The temperature is in the high 30s and the short-range forecast promises the clouds will move on and leave us with a sunny afternoon. It even smells like spring out there. Not the kind of weather we prefer for Audubon's longest running festival. There have been years when the weather was just like this on the day of the festival. Our volunteers greeted visitors by saying, "Welcome to the No-Flake Festival!" I'm hoping that the extended forecast for the end of January of snow and temperatures in the 20s holds so that this year our winter festival will look wintery.
I don't remember winter being like this. I remember piles of snow taller than me on either side of the driveway. I remember dad pushing snow off the garage roof to make piles so tall that when we stood on them, we could put our mittened hands on the roof. I remember sledding and ice skating every day. I remember that rarely was the snow warm enough to build snowmen or make snowballs; instead it was puffy and powdery and we could fall back into it without getting hurt. I don't remember snow days of the frequency we see now, either. I remember bundling up in snow pants, boots, coat, mittens, hat, and a scarf wrapped around my nose and mouth so that I could walk to school.
Are these memories real? I did a little (very little) research. I looked up temperatures on the Farmer's Almanac website for Feb. 1 for my first 14 winters. The temperatures ranged from a low of 5.6 degrees Fahrenheit to a high of 34.9 with an average of 20.8. Compare that with temperatures from my most recent 14 winters when the low was 15.1, the high was 46.6 and the average was 27.7. I'll take that as validation of my memories that we used to have real winters and that today's winters are just not the same.
It makes me sad. I love winter. I like to crosscountry ski and hike with my snow shoes. The last few years have given me few opportunities to do either.
Despite the "fact" that today's winters are milder, Jamestown Audubon will celebrate the season with its Snowflake Festival on Saturday, Feb. 1 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visitors will have many opportunities to enjoy activities both inside and outside. There will be horse-drawn sleigh (or wagon) rides, snowshoes and cross-country skis to try out, programs with live hawks and owls by a local wildlife rehabilitator, sled dog demonstrations, nest box and bird feeder building, and kids crafts. Many community businesses and organizations will be on hand with information and products to sell. Fluvanna Boy Scout Troop 169 will put on a winter camping demonstration, including outdoor cooking. Audubon naturalists will be leading nature hikes. Check out the long list of vendors and exhibitors on the festival website at snowflakefestival.wordpress.com. It may take you several hours to enjoy everything - and this could make you hungry. Lucky for you there will be food. The Audubon Kitchen will be serving up chili and hot dogs. Franklin's Honey & Apples will be on hand making kettle corn and cotton candy to go along with other apple and honey products they sell. You can get coffee, tea, or hot chocolate and a brownie at the Hot Bar.
There is so much to do that you may not be able to do it all in one day, which is why you should make this an annual activity for the family.
Jamestown Audubon is located at 1600 Riverside Road in the town of Kiantone, a quarter-mile east of Route 62 between Jamestown and Warren, Pa. Learn more about the Center & Sanctuary and the many programs and events by visiting.
Jennifer Schlick is program director at Jamestown Audubon.