0

Yuletide joy in the woods

Reynolds nature preserve hosts annual Yule Log Festival

Forest Park resident Jameyon Williams throws the William H. Reynolds Memorial Nature Preserve’s Yule Log on a bonfire Friday. Williams’ niece, Sayann Costley, found the log during the preserve’s Yule Log Festival. It is customarily tossed on the bonfire after it is found.

Forest Park resident Jameyon Williams throws the William H. Reynolds Memorial Nature Preserve’s Yule Log on a bonfire Friday. Williams’ niece, Sayann Costley, found the log during the preserve’s Yule Log Festival. It is customarily tossed on the bonfire after it is found.

— About 300 local residents gathered to hear about the dreaded Christmas monsters, known as the “Barefoot Squinters,” in a Morrow forest Friday.

Forest Park-based storyteller Barry Stewart Mann said British children face a “terrible” fate if they don’t act like little angels. They could be turned into creatures that squint and are incapable of wearing shoes.

Mann told the tale of two quarrelsome children from the English countryside, who were scared of the “Barefoot Squinters,” during the annual Yule Log Festival at the William H. Reynolds Memorial Nature Preserve in Morrow. The children in the story were told the “Barefoot Squinters” would get them if they continued to fight with each other while decorating the Yule log for their village.

“Oh no! Not the Barefoot Squinters!” said Mann, as he recounted the tale.

Actually, the “Squinters” are a figment of Mann’s imagination. He made them up for a background story on the nature preserve’s Yule Log.

The nature preserve has been hosting the Yule Log Festival for several decades and this year’s celebration proved to be a big draw for young and old alike. It began with the Forest Park High School orchestra performing at the preserve’s outdoor classroom.

Attendees then got some hot chocolate and cider before heading down a candle-lit trail to a bonfire. Mann was there, waiting to tell tales of holiday traditions from different cultures.

Even though she had no children with her, Forest Park resident Gwen Howard said she attended the festival because she wanted to take in all of the holiday festivities.

“I just come to see all of the fun,” said Howard, who comes to the festival every year.

McDonough youth Wyatt Thompson, 5, said he especially enjoyed the campfire. Thompson is the grandson of nature preserve Ranger John Williams.

“I liked the stories,” said Thompson. He added he also was looking forward to making S’mores by the campfire after the event ended.

The celebration culminated with children under the age of 14 running off into the night, in search of the Yule log. It was found within 10 minutes by Forest Park youth Sayann Costley, 5. While nature preserve officials made a big deal about her finding the log, she was more interested in the bonfire.

“I think the fire was the best part,” she said. “I want to roast some marshmallows!”