SARASOTA -- Patricia Pritchard is getting excited about showcasing Celery Fields, a park just south of Fruitville Road, to the community this Saturday.
From 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources will host its first Celery Fields Family Festival at the park, 6799 Palmer Blvd.
During the free event, visitors will take a guided bird walk at 9:15 a.m., do tai chi at 10 a.m., participate in meditation exercises at 10:45 a.m., and take an interpretive nature walk at 11:15 a.m. There will also be activities geared toward children including book readings and crafts. The first 100 children between the ages of 4-12 will receive a monocular and origami pigeon.
"It is such a beautiful, unique space," said Pritchard, proj
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ect coordinator for the Sarasota County parks and recreation department. "I can't wait to have people come out and share an afternoon out there and enjoy it. It will be a wonderful event for families. Something that is a little different than what we've done before."
The department partnered with Sarasota Audubon Society, Sarasota County Library Services, University Tai Chi and Sarasota Mindfulness Institute to put on the festival.
On Saturday, the Sarasota Audubon Society will also kick off the third year of its Bird Naturalist program at Celery Fields.
Every Saturday from now until May 1, the society will have a docent on each of the park's two boardwalks from 8:30-10:30 a.m. to educate the public on the more than 200 species at the park. Each docent will have a telescope and a book to identify the birds.
Sarasota Audubon Society president Jeanne Dubi said the purpose of the program is to make the public aware of the environment while educating them.
"The purpose is to maintain it and help birds thrive," Dubi said. "I would encourage people to come out to Celery Fields. It will be a wonderful day and to learn more about Celery Fields and the wildlife development out there."
The festival will be an opportunity for the county to highlight the park's new amenities -- a paved parking lot and a restroom facility, Pritchard said.
Based on the success of Saturday's event, the county may make it an annual event.
"The more we started doing the planning for the event, we got more excited about it," she said. "We are very excited about the event and are hoping that we do it every year."
The Sarasota Audubon Society is planning to build a nature center on a leased acre at Celery Fields, Dubi said. The society is raising capital funds and plans to start building within the next six months.
As development continues in the eastern Sarasota, the nature center "will be an oasis in the midst of all the development," Dubi said. "It is wonderful that the county has really allowed us to showcase that area."
Claire Aronson, University Parkway/Sarasota reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Claire_Aronson.