JACKSON – The 25th Annual Fall Forestry Festival brought its environmental message of appreciating nature and wildlife to the community.
The event, held at the NJ Forest Service Nursery and Forest Resource Education Center, 370 E. Veterans Highway, included nature hikes, live music by the Accidental Jug Band and a Teddy Roosevelt impersonator
Other activities included a drone demonstration, tree identification, woodcarving and lumberjack demonstrators, an edible plant walk.
Various other programs were also held and the local Boy Scouts promoted their programs and sold refreshments while local Girl Scouts hosted an archery target shoot.
Peyton Dixon brought his Historic Experience program to the event which started the day. The re-enactor portrayed Theodore Roosevelt who was born on Oct. 27, 1858.
Dixon’s uncanny likeness and attire captured the attention of attendees as he discussed “his” debilitating asthma and poor eyesight in his youth.
“I often visited my uncle Corneal in Maplewood, New Jersey. My breathing there became much easier. There was a vast forest there. You could get lost in it. I don’t mean that you’d get lost literally although I’m sure I did at times but I was lost in wonder,” he said.
Dixon said while in character that “I pondered on becoming a scientist and a zoologist at age 10.” Dixon told the story of how Roosevelt was fascinated when a community he was living at brought in a dead seal and he was allowed to examine it. “I measured the seal’s head and I was able to obtain its skull. I took taxidermy lessons.
“I abandoned all thoughts of being a scientist but nature helped me throughout my life. It was important. I had seen bison herds in pictures but when I traveled out to the west I learned of their loss. They were such majestic creatures. We were losing an impressive creature. I took efforts to see that they didn’t disappear,” he said.
Samantha Hensen, an Assistant Region Forester, arranged for Dixon to come out as a presenter for the event which she and State Forester John Sacco coordinated.
“This is our 25th Fall Forestry Festival and I believe it is our biggest. I’ve been part of it for the past five years and we try to amp it up a bit each year. While the weather varies each year we get a good crowd. We have a beautiful day today,” Sacco said.
“We have a portable sawmill, speed chopping and a little bit of everything,” she added.
“The main purpose of this event is to let the public know what the Forestry department does and our role in the health of the forest. We are distributing literature today about various aspects of the forest program,” Sacco said.
Sacco presented a talk about the present status of the state’s forestry program while Supervising Forester Bill Zipse spoke about its future.
Marlana DeMarco Hogan had found out about the event that morning and decided she needed to be there for it. The Millstone Township resident is a retired Italian language teacher and children’s book author. She was promoting her recently published book “Growing Up in the Dragonfly Zone.”
“This is a beautiful event,” Hogan said. She said the subject of her book connected to the festival in that it involves the love of a young boy, based on her son Barry who is now 25, and his dog Ember. “The book is dedicated to my son whose love of learning and nature led me to some very amazing adventures.”
Various environmental organization members promoted awareness of their groups and causes. Such groups included the Jackson Pathfinders, Save Barnegat Bay, the Barnegat Bay Partnership, Ocean County Mosquito Commission and the Rutgers Master Gardeners Program of Ocean County.
It wouldn’t be a forestry festival without some sign of Smokey the Bear, the department’s forest fire prevention mascot. Two costumed characters including Woodsy the Owl also took to the trail to bring out the message to “give a hoot, don’t pollute.”
“If I can’t tell a tree by the leaves, I’ll check out the ground around it,” Assistant Regional Forester Bernie Isaacson told a crowd during a tree identification demonstration. “If it is a good-looking pine it is probably a short leaf pine.”
Members of the Yepez and Huml familes of Long Branch came out to the event. Julien Ortiz, 10, and Noah Yepez were fixated on the snakes seen at NJ Herpetological Associates display area.
“We got to touch them,” Julien said excitedly.
Other activities included hayrides, acorn planting, craft activities, and building your own birdhouse with members of the Central Jersey Woodworkers Association.