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Residents enjoy nature at Wild Azalea Festival

Kourtney Keeney, 2, holds onto her family dog, Nila, during an animal presentation at the Wild Azalea Festival at William H. Reynolds Memorial Nature Preserve Saturday.

Kourtney Keeney, 2, holds onto her family dog, Nila, during an animal presentation at the Wild Azalea Festival at William H. Reynolds Memorial Nature Preserve Saturday.

— Jonesboro youth Kaylin Dorjee stayed in her stroller Saturday, looking around as she took in the spectacle of nature around her at William H. Reynolds Memorial Nature Preserve.

People were walking all around Dorjee, 1, as they shuffled from one booth to the next at the preserve’s Wild Azalea Festival.

Kneeling in front of her was Jeremy Hilderbrand, a naturalist from the Dauset Trails Nature Center. He was presenting a rat snake for her to touch. She reached out briefly and quickly ran her short fingers along a small section of its slick back.

She then pulled her hand away, seemingly losing interest in the reptile, and turned her head to see what else was going on.

Her mother, Kim Nguyen, then tried to get her daughter to wave to an adult female gopher tortoise. She started to reach out to the tortoise, but then turned her attention to her mother and reached out for her instead.

“This is her first time coming here and it’s just great that they have all of these activities going on,” Nguyen said.

Nature Preserve Manager Stephanie Berens said approximately 500 people attended this year’s festival. Those attending got to participate in a wide range of activities, including boat rides, animal presentations from Zoo Atlanta and Dauset Trails, trivia games with Georgia Aquarium representatives, tomato planting lessons, presentations on native Georgia plants, face painting and nature hikes.

“It’s just been a beautiful day out here and everyone is enjoying themselves,” Berens said.

Hilderbrand said Dauset Trails participates in the festival every year because it provides an opportunity to teach visitors about wildlife.

“It’s done for environmental education and outreach,” he said. “It’s an opportunity where we can reach the masses about the mammals and reptiles here in Georgia.”

Forest Park youth Caleb Caldwell said he liked the tomato planting lesson with the Clayton County Master Gardeners as well as the Georgia Aquarium’s trivia table.

“I’ve been to this before and it’s always a lot of fun,” Caldwell said.

Fayetteville youth Ella Padia was also a fan of the Georgia Aquarium’s booth. She won a magnet for guessing that penguins are birds.

“I liked getting the magnet,” she said.

But, the aquarium’s exhibit was not the only popular part of the festival for children.

College Park youth Cairo Dempsey said her favorite part was getting an orange, brown and white butterfly painted on her left cheek.

“Butterflies are my favorite,” she said.

Many of the attendees were families who came to the festival to enjoy an afternoon together.

Fronita Holston said her family, including husband Marcus and four children, decided to attend the festival because the weather was nice and it gave them an opportunity to get out of the house.

“It’s a nice family-friendly event and the kids will get to learn about nature,” Holston said.

Jonesboro resident Chanel Dawson-Williams echoed those sentiments. She said she decided to bring her son, Alonzo Williams III, and her step-son, Jacquez Williams, after she read a Clayton News Daily article about the event.

“We try to do something as a family every weekend and this looked like a good family-friendly activity,” she said.

And everyone in the Williams family reported that they enjoyed themselves.