CANASTOTA — Spectators flocked last weekend to the Great Swamp Conservancy for the organization’s 19th annual Fall Migration Festival where they were able to enjoy nature, visit new and returning vendors, and help children build memories and learn about birds and wildlife.
Throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, area residents have been able to enjoy the Great Swamp’s hiking trails — but big events, like the Fall Migration Festival — have had to be reimagined or tweaked to allow for such things as social distancing.
“This is the first real big event since [the pandemic]... We survived COVID-19, and we were open all the time,” President and CEO Mike Patane said. “During that time, our trails were used 10 times (more) than they normally were. After all, people were stuck inside.”
Patane said Great Swamp staff and volunteers were there to greet visitors as they arrived to explored the trails. “We’ve been doing alright and holding on, and we’re thankful to our donors,” Patane said. “They really stepped up and helped us keep afloat.”
As a not-for-profit, the Great Swamp Conservancy does whatever it can with what it has. And while they couldn’t do every program they wanted to this year, Patane said what they did host was successful.
Brianne Wilcox said they hosted a summer camp, the annual Swamp Trot for the children, and more. It was challenging to prepare everything after a year off, but Wilcox said she and Director Rusty Patane have been handling it well.
“Everything [ran] smoothly; we [got] a steady stream of people, and we’ve been really happy with everything,” Wilcox said.
Among those attending was Chittenango resident CathyAnn Schlick. “My family comes out here every year since they do a lot of family activities,” Schlick said while her 3-year-old son Ivan attempted to fish up a prize. “But aside from the festival, they do events like the Swamp Tromp to get children engaged in the outdoors. And that’s good to get them started young.”
Schlick said she was happy to see the Fall Migration Festival back in full swing, especially after the pandemic.
“It’s great. The kids enjoy it, and they missed it.”
For more information about the Great Swamp Conservancy, visit www.greatswampconservancy.org, email greatswampconservancy@ gmail.com, call 315-697-2950, or stop by.
A variety of environmental programs are offered for adults and children. Visitors are welcome to walk the trails from dawn to dusk, picnic on the grounds without staff present. The office is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.