[caption id="attachment_1954" align="aligncenter" width="250" caption="Photo from Town Of Fishers website"][/caption] Today our guest blogger is Heidi Shoemaker, a Naturalist at Ritchey Woods Nature Preserve. She helps with putting together the fun, outdoor, reasonably priced events.  See what she has to say about these events below… There are so many things in life to celebrate. We celebrate birthdays, family reunions, Scout group honor ceremonies, friends, community, engagements, promotions, and more. Many times people want to stretch their legs and get into the great outdoors for their events. What draws people to the outdoors for their celebration? I suppose that depends on the person, but I can suggest a few ideas here:
  • It’s peaceful. There are few places that you can go within Hamilton County to get away from the hustle a bustle. Sometimes you just need an escape, even if just for a few hours. That is where the importance of natural areas comes in to play. You can hold a birthday party anywhere, but sometimes it is nice just to relax and take in the scenery.
  • Depending on where you go, rental rates can be very expensive.  At Ritchey Woods, a 2-hour program is $90 for Fishers residents and $135 for non-residents. This rate allows you to invite up to 89 people to join you making it great for a day outside.  Additional hours are available for $25.00.
  • It is educational. During the program, a naturalist-led hike on a topic of your choice is offered to up to 30 of your participants. This low number allows for a much more enjoyable experience out in the woods, through the prairie, or off to the wetlands. Many programming topics are offered, but suggestions you do not see on the list are always a possibility. Current offerings include birds and bird watching, forests, insects and bug catching, mammals, monarch butterflies (August and September only), wetlands (best in the spring), Scout badge work, and recycled games.
  • Live animals are an option. Though Ritchey Woods is full of wildlife that is encountered on a daily basis, you can offer a more up close and personal look at wildlife by scheduling a program animal to join your program. Currently there is a box turtle, a red-eared slider turtle, Madagascar hissing cockroaches, a salamander, a corn snake, and a ball python to choose from. An animal visitor is an additional $25.00.
  • It’s a cookout! Though some people do choose to bring their own crockpots of food or order pizza and bring it with them, most people take full advantage of the campfire. All programs come with a campfire unless you request to not have one. Included with the fire are roasting sticks and marshmallows. You simply need to supply the hotdogs, buns, and toppings and the s’more supplies if you would like to take your roasted marshmallow to a higher level. We also provide hand sanitizer and wet wipes to clean up before or after a sticky marshmallow.
  • There’s no mess to clean up! When you program is over, you pack up what you brought with you and you are done. We take care of putting out the fire, cleaning the roasting sticks, and taking out the trash.
  • One more plus to the program is that scheduling is extremely flexible. If you pick a date and time that someone else hasn’t gotten to first, it is yours. You can book up to one year in advance.
  • Programs can run rain or shine, but if we have severe weather, we will have to reschedule or refund your money. The weather is the only thing we don’t have under control!
  • It’s fun! We sometimes spend too much time cooped up inside whether that is at school or work. Sometimes we just need to get outside. Stretching your legs and taking in some fresh air on a hike will do you some good. Not to mention that there is a large grassy area near the shelter that inevitably welcomes a game of tag with the children. They can run around and use their outside voices and burn off some of the energy the sugary marshmallows gave them.
Are you inspired? If you would like to hold your next celebration outside at Ritchey Woods Nature Preserve, please contact Danesa Stolz at 317-595-3458 or stolzd@fsihers.in.us. - Heidi Shoemaker, Naturalist, Ritchey Woods Nature Preserve