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Newman Center to hold annual Wetlands Festival

Mother Nature is expected to be fêted at the Newman Wetlands Center this weekend, an official with the center said on Wednesday.

Carol Lambert, a senior conservationist, said the center will host its 11th Annual Wetlands and Watershed Festival, on Saturday, from 10 a.m., to 3 p.m., at the facility, which is located at 2755 Freeman Road, in Hampton.

The free event will feature games and exhibits, staged by representatives of various nature preserves and environmental organizations and agencies, she said.

"We feel it's a real outreach opportunity for the community," Lambert said. "They come in, and have fun, and get exposed to a wetlands forest, and the environment, in general ... We try to get people to realize nature is such a wonderful place."

The senior conservationist added that the festival provides environmental groups and nature preserves, some of which are in Clayton County's own back yard, with some exposure to the community. She said even though some of these groups have been around for a while, such as the W.H. Reynolds Memorial Nature Preserve, in Morrow, many people may not know about them.

She said there will be 19 exhibitors at the festival, including the Reynolds Nature Preserve, Jackson-based Dauset Trails Nature Center, Palmetto-based Cochran Mill Nature Center, and Zebulon-based Bubba & Friends, Inc., raptor rescue group.

Dauset Trails, Cochran Mill and Bubba & Friends will have live, animal presentations, she said.

"There are always people who don't know these places exist," she said. "Through the years, we've had these exhibitors come out, and people are still surprised they can find places like this around here. These are really just in their back yard ... A lot of people are surprised that a place like this [the wetlands center] exists in the county, just two miles off Tara Boulevard."

Lambert said some of the groups that will have exhibits at the festival, include the Georgia Conservancy; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Atlanta Audubon Society; Georgia Wildlife Federation; the Sierra Club, and the University of Georgia Clayton County Extension Service.

The Clayton County Water Authority, which owns the Newman Wetlands Center, will also have an exhibit, she added.

"We wanted to focus on just having groups that deal with nature, or the environment in general, at the festival," she said. Most exhibitors will have some sort of interactive feature that attendees can participate in, she added.

The festival, which will include a scavenger hunt for children, and guided walks of the wetlands area, has steadily grown in terms of the number of people who attend it each year, according to Lambert.

"When we started the festival 11 years ago, we had about 200 to 300 people show up, and we thought that was a good number," she said. "In recent years, for about the past three years, I'd say, it's been up around 800 people coming out each year."

Parking for the festival will be available at Blaylock Reservoir, across the street from the wetlands center, Lambert said. She added that festival T-shirts will be available for purchase, at $12 for adults, and $10 for children. Food will also be sold, she said. Proceeds from T-shirt and food sales will be used to pay for wetlands center programming, she added.

For more information about the festival, call (770) 603-5603.