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Earth Day-Arbor Day promotes wildlife, environment

Creatures stirred, educational tidbits were learned and Mother Nature was once again the star of the show.

The Village of Homer Glen, known for its emphasis on nature and embracing the environment, set the stage for its 10th annual Earth Day-Arbor Day on Saturday, May 20, at Konow’s Corn Maze.

“Every year, we try to grow it more and bigger and do different things,” said Sharon Sweas, chairwoman of the Earth Day-Arbor Day committee and a Village Board trustee. “All of our different exhibitors this year, we have a lot more than we’ve had in the past. It’s a growing. It’s something we do, and our community looks forward to it.”

A plethora of people took part in the festivities, despite the early rainfall. Demonstrations, exhibits and other activities were some of the highlights featured.

Earth science, buckskin tanning, hair braiding, calligraphy, potting and vermicomposting were just a few of the subjects of the demos to be seen.

“There’s something for everybody,” Sweas said.

New to the event this year was a presentation on dinosaur bones and a science show for children.

“We cater a lot to the kids for our event because they’re shaping the future, and we want them to see why [the environment is] important,” said Sue Steilen, staff liaison for the Village of Homer Glen.

Typically, the event brings in an estimated 1,500 people, according to the organizers.

Nina Sladek, of Joliet, said she was glad she and her family decided to drop in.

“I love that they have tons of stuff for the kids to do,” she said. “It’s really, really neat that they have a whole entire petting zoo and ponies to ride back there. It’s a cool event for the kids.”

Nina’s 7-year-old daughter, Caitlin, agreed.

“All the animals… I can play with and pet,” she said.

From the animals in the petting zoo and the slate of vendors on hand, to the locally grown food and handcrafted products, Earth Day-Arbor Day serves its purpose well by informing people about the role they can play in protecting the environment, Nina said.

“It all speaks to care for the environment and great programs that give back to other programs, too,” Nina said.

Nina said the turnout for Earth Day-Arbor Day said a lot about the people who decide to attend.

“I think it shows that there are tons and tons of people who care and make that a priority,” she said. “I think the fact that this event, too, seems to have gotten bigger and bigger from what I’ve heard over the last few years shows the focus on that is growing. I think vendors and businesses need to grow accordingly.”

Nina and Caitlin surveyed the Exotic Wildlife Sanctuary booth featuring mammals and inquired to learn more about furry animals, such as the Siberian lynx and foxes.

“They don’t usually get this close to certain animals that we have,” said Elizabeth Kleist, founder of Exotic Wildlife Sanctuary. “It’s nice to see like little kid reactions, like, ‘Oh, my gosh, a monkey.’”

Kleist said Earth Day-Arbor Day informs the public about the environment and more about what is out there.

Kleist recognizes there is a plethora of topics in environmental science that people could take interest in and said what people commonly don’t understand is that animals—such as the Siberian lynx—are not always meant to be pets.

“Unfortunately, they’re still bred for pet purposes,” she said. “It’s important to know what you have in our community, what their importance is in the ecosystem, also.”

Kleist said when she receives calls for service to pick up illegal pets, she makes every effort, if allowable, to pick them up and find a replacement home. The process of catching an animal keeps her job interesting, she said.

“It depends on the animal—sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s comical to watch us catch them,” Kleist said.

Maggie Berg, of Lockport, said she and her family make it a tradition to drop in for Earth Day-Arbor Day at Konow’s Corn Maze every year.

“The kids really love it,” she said.

Maggie’s 8-year-old daughter, Morgan, said her favorite part of Earth Day-Arbor Day is playing with the animals.

Morgan had already ridden the ponies, sat in on a science show and checked out the skunks.

Maggie said she likes how there are so many different activities to try.

“[It’s] a very family-friendly environment,” she said.

While the environment’s challenges are often in the spotlight, community events in the Village of Homer Glen, such as Earth Day-Arbor Day, serve as a reminder that further work is necessary to protect it.

Steilen said she ultimately hoped people will continue to appreciate what they saw and learned about at the event.

“Homer Glen is a community that values the environment,” she said.

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