News Column

'Something for everybody' – Nature center hosts summer events for seniors

July 18, 2014

By Jenae Peterson, Austin Daily Herald, Minn.

July 18--Cheryl Dunlap was excited to see Ann Zimmerman perform, but this wasn't the first time.

"I've heard Ann Zimmerman before and I really enjoy her music and whole demeanor; [she's] fun and talented," Dunlap said.

Dunlap attended the folk-singer's concert Thursday morning in Ruby Rupner Auditorium; it was the most recent senior performance at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center this summer.

As part of the weekly Thursday Nature Play, the nature center holds programs in the morning for senior citizens. Many times, a performer holds one to three performances a day: one in the morning for seniors, one in the afternoon for children, and one later in the evening for adults. Dunlap has attended many of these events at the nature center.

"I've enjoyed every one of them," Dunlap said. "There's always something happening here and programs for all ages."

Dunlap finds the shows relaxing, entertaining and many times educational. Along with the nature play, she hoped to attend more of the Water Festival events going on this weekend.

A nature center intern came up with the idea for Thursday Nature Play about four to five years ago, and the idea for special senior programs came around the same time, according to Executive Director Larry Dolphin.

"[It's] been going strong since," Dolphin said. "It's adapted and we've got more programming than we ever have."

The nature center looks for performers from across the Midwest, and organizers have provided many programs over the last four to five years. Past events featured a handler with a bald eagle, another featured a storyteller. After Zimmerman, Kurt Mead is set to come next week to focus on dragonflies.

"We have a lot of talent, [we] mix it up with music and natural history and storytelling, and all of that for those days," Dolphin said.

Dolphin said his favorite programs are usually music-based, and he enjoys the environmental focus performers usually put to their music.

"They're enthusiastic about what they do and what they share," Dolphin said.

Yet the animal shows tend to draw the largest audience. Dolphin said the bald eagle drew many people, and when the zoo visits they get many families.

The nature center tends to bring performers back when they receive good reviews, but organizers also try to mix up shows to draw more people.

"We've got a whole gamut of different programs and they're pretty diverse, so there should be something there for everybody that might be interested," Dolphin said.

Dolphin said the presenters and performers cater to and appeal to different age groups.

The nature center will feature a program every week for the summer, excluding the week of the Mower County Fair, when there will be a booth at the fairgrounds.

The nature center is supported by various organizations, including Friends of the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center, the Austin Autobon Society and the Izaak Walton League. With the funding, the nature center is able to put money toward staffing, programming and scholarships.

Nature center offering carts for people with limited mobility

Along with Thursday Nature Play, nature center leaders are continuing to help seniors and people with limited mobility experience the outdoors.

The nature center owns two electronic access vehicles, which are similar to a go-cart, to help people with limited mobility see the grounds.

The center received its first cart in 2011. It holds five people, plus a driver. The second, received in 2013, holds 12 people.

The carts are used to bring people on tours that may not have good mobility on their own. Dolphin doesn't expect the center to receive any more soon due to space issues and finding drivers, but they are nice to have for senior programs.

Dolphin sees people come back to the programs time and time again, and he has gotten good feedback from participants.

"They wouldn't do that if they didn't enjoy what was offered," Dolphin said. "We have really a good repertoire with the seniors that come out, and we'd like to expand that, we'd like to see more."


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Source: Austin Daily Herald (MN)

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