Forest Festival takes on new format in 20th year

This past Saturday afternoon the Williams Center for Environmental Studies (CES) presented its annual Forest Festival at the Rosenburg Center in Hopkins Forest.

The festival, now in its 20th year, celebrates the past and current uses of Hopkins Forest.

Hank Art, director of the CES, described the purpose of the event.

“It is an opportunity for us to share with the students, faculty, and the towns people what is going on in the forest, in a historical sense and in a contemporary sense,” he said.

He noted that the festival appeals to a wide range of people, with interactive exhibits geared towards children, and lectures given by students and researchers.

Organizers report that the event went smoothly as a result of the behind-the-scenes work of many students and faculty.

“The students were fabulous,” said Joan Edwards, the faculty director of Hopkins Forest. “They volunteered their time and knowledge.”

Art noted that the Forest Festival has evolved in several ways since its conception.

“Ten years ago, it had more of an arts and crafts focus,” he said. “This year, the Festival highlighted the student and faculty research going on here. We tried to get people to walk up into the forest and to see the different stations set up.”

This year 10 stations were placed at different locations around a loop in the forest. Art reported that this format was new to the Forest Festival, as in the past the affair has been held at the entrance to Hopkins Forest.

He said the new arrangement encourages people to walk around in the forest and experience its different vistas and wildlife. This year’s exhibits ranged from demonstrations of the sugar maple process to displays of old farming tools.

In the “Moon Barn,” of the forest, well-known barn builder Dick Babcock demonstrated how to make beams out of logs and how to raise them. In his demonstration, Babcock used historic appliances such as a bull wheel and a gin pull.

Art remarked that “using the bull wheel, two small children were able to generate enough power to raise a 700 pound beam.”

Laura McMillian ’02 noted that she learned a considerable amount from Babcock’s display.

“The demonstrations by Dick Babcock in historic construction of barns provided a window into the past and showed how old techniques are still effective,” she said.

Other exhibits, such as a canopy walkway and a weather station, focused on the nature of the forest and the history of the land use.

Edwards said he hopes the festival helped participants to see Hopkins in a new light.

“I think people really enjoyed getting into the forest, to see what is done there,” she said. “Many of the people around the area see these projects on a daily basis, while running, hiking, or walking their dogs, without really knowing what the stations are used for.”

Williams students said there were a number of good stations along the trails.

“I enjoyed stopping at many of the stations along the trails; in particular, I liked the one where Sandy Brown was explaining the acid rain data she’s been collecting over the years,” said Katherine Birnie ‘00

Some other popular attractions were the cider milling and the Appalachian music stands, which are both annual displays.

“The apple cider was delicious, and the music was charming,” McMillian said.

One new station was a weather station featuring a display on changing weather patterns and the tree species in the area.

Also popular was the Canopy Walkway, on top of which people could gain a new perspective on the forest.

“If they so desired, people could be perched 60 feet off of the ground,” Art said. “Some were definitely not interested.”

In addition to the stations, naturalists from Williams led walks and the Williams Outing Club conducted hikes through the forests.

But many students still took the time to explore the forest on their own

“I walked through the forest on my own, and it was so enchanting that I decided to take my parents there when they come for parents’ weekend,” McMillian said.