Conservancy of SW Fla. Earth Day festival April 16

Laura Tichy-Smith
Special to Coastal Life

Learning and fun become one at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida’s annual Earth Day Festival, an all-day outing planned for Saturday, April 16.


The festival will offer many activities and presentations to educate and entertain both adults and children.

“For families, it really is affordable at $10 for adults and $5 for kids to come and have all of these opportunities for fun all day,” said Catherine Bergerson, director of communications and marketing for the conservancy. “You can’t go to a movie for that, and this is doing the activities together.”

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida will offer two live reptile shows during its Earth Day Festival.

In addition to the conservancy’s regular activities, such as its electric boat rides, educational exhibits and children’s play area, the festival will feature live music, live animal shows, multiple food vendors, environmental organization booths, special Kids’ Zone activities, interactive science education programs, student documentary films, puppet shows and book readings.

“At Earth Day, we have activities going on that will connect kids with the environment and with things they can do to make a difference for the environment here in Southwest Florida,” said Nicki Dardinger, director of education for the conservancy. “What we’re really big on here is when people, especially kids and their parents, can get really engaged with the environment, whether with wildlife or just playing outside, so it can help them to better understand why they should protect it because people protect the things they care about.”

A fossil dig will be one of the many activities for children during the Earth Day Festival.


Animal presentations will include two live reptile shows, Naples Zoo animal show, python educational presentation and the naming ceremony for the conservancy’s new hatchling loggerhead sea turtle.

“One of the things that makes the conservancy unique is I believe between Sarasota and Miami we’re the only facility that has a loggerhead sea turtle as an ambassador to help teach people about the species,” Bergerson said. “They’re native to our area and they’re threatened, so it’s our responsibility to protect them, and here’s an opportunity to learn about sea turtles by one being an ambassador here at the conservancy.”

Special interactive science presentations at the festival will include Snapology Legos and Super Science and Amazing Art. The special Kids’ Zone will offer environmentally themed games, crafts, face painting, bounce house and fossil dig.

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida will offer children’s activities in its Kids’ Zone.

“Snapology uses Legos to teach about STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — and to teach about the environment, and kids love to build things,” Dardinger said. “We also have Glen Beitman the science guy with his company Super Science and Amazing Art, and he does these incredibly interactive programs about science, so he’ll be doing a program about the Everglades but he’ll also have really cool science experiments going on all day. I think kids will really like him and doing his experiments.”

For small children, the conservancy’s play zone exhibit offers hands-on educational activities appealing to pre-kindergarteners, such as making animal tracks, running through a toddler-sized gopher tortoise burrow, sitting in a bald eagle’s nest and dressing up in animal costumes.

The festival will also feature the fruition of a partnership this year between the conservancy and Collier County Schools. The conservancy worked with over 200 high school students in the marine biology classes who made short documentary films. The winning films will be shown during the festival and the students will talk about their projects.


“It really is a festival environment, and we couldn’t do that without our partners,” Dardinger said. “We have a lot of local vendors onsite, and environmental and conservation partners who will be here with exhibits teaching people more about what they do out in the community and how they protect the environment.”

The Friends of the Naples Preserve is one of the many community partners that set up booths at the Earth Day Festival, making the event a convenient place to learn about many natural areas and environmental organizations in Southwest Florida all at once.

Attendees of the Earth Day Festival at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida can take electric boat rides on the Gordon River.

“The most interesting part for me about Earth Day, as far as being one of the exhibitors, is that there are so many different kinds of programs, agencies, organizations and friends groups that are filling different niches, almost like our ecological niches,” said Mary Echols, chair of the Friends of the Naples Preserve. “Every caretaker has a different niche to fill, and everybody has a favorite program they have taken on as a mission in their lives to promote and fulfill, so that’s really an interesting aspect of the whole Earth Day Festival at the conservancy.”

The Bugtussle Ramblers will perform bluegrass music at the festival.

While at its core the Earth Day Festival shares the Conservancy of Southwest Florida’s mission to protect the water, land, wildlife and future, the event is also a celebration for the community.

“This is our largest community event of the year,” Bergerson said, “and if people have been thinking they’d like to come to the conservancy but haven’t, this is a great day to be introduced to our organization.”

Connect with this writer: @LauraTichySmith (Twitter)

Earth Day Festival

When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, April 16

Where: Conservancy of Southwest Florida, 1495 Smith Preserve Way, Naples

Driving tip: Main entrance is on Goodlette-Frank Road, south of the Naples Zoo

Cost: $10 adults; $5 children ages 3-12; Free under age 3 or conservancy member

Info: 262-0304;

Suggested: Sunscreen, sun hat, insect repellant, cash in small denominations to purchase food, souvenirs and raffle tickets

Earth Day Festival

events schedule

10:30 a.m.: “The Magic Tree” book reading

11 a.m.: Caring for critters puppet show

11 a.m.: Guided nature trail walk

11:30 a.m.: Reptile live animal show

11:30 a.m.: Sea turtle naming

Noon: Raffle drawing

Noon: Everglades interactive show by Super Science and Amazing Art

12:15 p.m.: Meet Gordon B. Eagle mascot

12:30 p.m.: “Salty the Sea Turtle” book reading

1 p.m.: Naples Zoo live animal show

2 p.m.: Python presentation

2:15 p.m.: Meet Gordon B. Eagle mascot

2:30 p.m.: Raffle drawing

2:45 p.m.: Student nature documentaries

3:15 p.m.: Reptile live animal show

All-day activities

•Snapology Legos presents “Nature’s Super Transformers”

•Electric boat rides (sign up in advance)

•Kayak rentals

•Live music by Bugtussle Ramblers bluegrass band

•Exhibits, vendors and food

•Dalton Discovery Center animal exhibits

•Little Explorer Play Zone for pre-school children

•Kids’ Zone with games, crafts, face painting and sand art

•C’mon Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples activities

•Wildlife hospital exhibits and junior veterinary lab

•“Incredible Insects” activities, STEM Lab

Other Earth Day events in the Coastal Life area

Earth Day BOGO admission

When: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday, April 22

Where: Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center, 300 Tower Road, Naples

Driving tip: Tower Road turns off of Collier Boulevard south of intersection with U.S. 41

Cost: $5 adults; $3 children ages 12-6; Free under age 6

Info: 530-5940;

Description: Receive admission for second person free to tour the environmental learning center at Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. Programs include a touch tank exploration at 11 a.m. and a guided walk on the Snail Trail at 2 p.m. as well as nature films shown throughout the day.

Arbor Day

When: 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, April 23

Where: Riverside Park, 10451 Old 41 Road, Bonita Springs

Cost: Free

Info: 949-6262;

Description: Event will feature a tree planting demonstration, free Florida slash pines, fruit tree and plant sale, food vendors, environmental and wildlife exhibits. Everglades Wonder Gardens will offer special guided tours of its trees at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. at a discounted rate of $10 for people who register at its table at Arbor Day.

Earth Day Trash Bash

When: 9 a.m.-noon Saturday, April 23

Where: 2751 Oak St., Fort Myers Beach

Cost: Free

Info: 334-3488;

Description: Part of the nationwide Great American Cleanup, volunteers will help clean up litter and debris from public lands and shorelines at Fort Myers Beach. Long-sleeved shirt, long pants, socks, gloves, closed-toe shoes, refillable water bottle, sunscreen, sunhat and insect repellent are recommended.


Earth Day

content inside

Schedules, information and all things Earth Day. On page 6A