The Neighborhood Nature Festival has a little something for everyone.
It might be the only outdoor event of the summer where one can find an eclectic array of attractions ranging from the unorthodox percussion stylings of “Recycleman” to a bilingual puppet show to an exhibit showcasing various birds of prey all in the same general vicinity.
Launched by the City of Albuquerque Open Space Division, these pop-up events will take place one Saturday per month for the next four months – June 18, July 16, Aug. 27 and Sept. 24 – and run from 9 a.m. to noon.
The festivals alternate between Phil Chacon Park (7600 Southern Ave. SE) and Alamosa Park (1100 Bataan Dr. SW) and are free to the public.
“Open space and parks are public lands, and they belong to all of us,” said Jessica Sapunar-Jursich, Open Space education supervisor . “But they historically have not had the same equal access for everyone in the community due to a variety of socioeconomic reasons, transportation reasons and things like that.
“These events grew out of a need to make our public lands more accessible to everyone in the community. The neighborhood nature festivals are bringing nature education and a celebration of nature into our urban parks.”
With that in mind, the parks for the events were carefully selected with respect to their proximity to the city’s 14 listed open space lands, which include Paseo del Bosque Trail, Petroglyph National Monument, Rio Grande Valley State Park and West Mesa Open Space, among others.
“The city has been able to determine which communities, which neighborhoods are furthest from these public lands – furthest in distance and then furthest in public transportation access,” Sapunar-Jursich said. “… Phil Chacon Park is located is in the International District and Alamosa Park is in the Southwestern quadrant of the city, and those are two areas that are furthest from Open Space access. We’re trying to offer opportunities to learn about nature in one’s neighborhood and to kind of celebrate the nature that’s just all around us.”
The morning start time helps to alleviate the summer heat – as do the free ice pops – and attendees can check out the scheduled events, which include live and interactive music and bilingual storytelling, or they can visit the various tents and exhibits which are set up around the park for the duration of the three-hour period.
The interactive music segment is led by Kevin Kinane, aka “Recycleman,” and is a fun way to get everyone involved with an unusual collection of musical “instruments.”
“He brings this whole percussion kit setup entirely of repurposed, recycled items,” Sapunar-Jursich said. “He’ll have five-gallon buckets and tin cans, an o
ld telephone and all this kind of random stuff that you’d think could only go into the recycle bin or trashcan.”
Families will also enjoy the bilingual storytelling offerings, entitled “Duende on the Rio Grande,” which is a puppet show put on by Michelle Adam that details the adventures of a magical elf and the animals he encounters on his journeys.
Meanwhile, there will be numerous other educational exhibits present: Hawks Aloft will have life educational birds of prey on hand; Ciudad Soil and Water Conservation will bring its rolling river, a three-dimensional model of a watershed; and the ABQ Backyard Refuge Program will be offering gardening and landscaping tips. And those are just a few of the offerings. On-site interpreters – Spanish and Swahili at Phil Chacon Park, and Spanish at Alamosa Park – will also be available for language support if needed.
“How it works is from 9 a.m. to noon we have all of our community partners and all of our activities set up all throughout the park under shade canopies, and then except for the storytelling and the live music that happens specifically at those scheduled times, everything is just happening throughout the three-hour festival,” Sapunar-Jursich said. “Family and visitors can just mingle around the park and participate in what seems fun and interesting.”
CONCERT SERIES: While the Nature Festival caters to the morning crowd, the Open Space Division is also offering Neighborhood Community Concerts, which run from 6-8 p.m. on Saturday, June 18 at the Los Poblanos Fields Open Space/Rio Grande Community Farm, and at the Tijeras BioZone Open Space on July 9, Aug. 20 and Sept. 17.
Conservation Carnivale, which is a “science circus,” will serve as the opening act at each event, while various musical guests close the show.
Other attractions include rock climbing, face painting and yes, ice pops – all free of charge.