Snake expert Terry Vandeventer will host live reptile shows again at this year’s NatureFEST. Photo courtesy Mississippi Museum of Natural Science
Reflecting on springtime brings mental imagery of green pastures filled with flowers and wildlife. Yes, spring is the season we often remember nature, and the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science provides a celebration of nature each year through its annual event, NatureFEST. The event, typically held the first Saturday of April, serves as an open house of sorts as well as a celebration of the anniversary of the museum relocating to LeFleur's Bluff State Park.
"I kind of think of Nature-
FEST as a Jackson tradition," says Nicole Smith, event planner and naturalist for the museum. The 2020 event incidentally marks the nature festival's 20th iteration. The museum plans on having a birthday-themed surprise for guests for the occasion on top of its regular goings-on.
Freedom Ranch Wildlife Outreach Group serves as this year's special animal presenter. "They do incredible wildlife education, and they're bringing some of their birds of prey and other animals so that guests can have an up-close experience," Smith says.
The organization will be having shows throughout the day so that visitors have multiple opportunities to see their trained animals.
Snake expert Terry Vandeventer will also be present holding live reptile shows. "Nobody knows more about snakes than Terry. He is the man," Smith says.
Additionally, the museum will be hosting behind-the-scenes tours so that guests can look through its research labs. "A lot of people may not be aware that we are not just a public museum—we are a research facility," Smith says. The Endangered Species Management Plan for the state of Mississippi comes from the museum, and guests can see its various labs, such as the fossil lab with the museum's paleontologists, or the back room where the museum's ichthyologists study different fish species.
The museum will also host on-site bioblips, which are guided hikes with our experts that allow guests to learn more about the species that live right here in Jackson, everything from trees to local mammals and birds.
Other exhibitors are being finalized, but they will offer various activities for both children and adults. For example, the Jackson Zoo will bring its usual "recycle relay" activity, and the museum will hold "fossil piles," where visitors can dig for fossils to keep.
Door prizes will be awarded throughout the day, and food trucks will also be available.
"Whether you are an adult who wants to learn a little bit more about what your state is doing or you are a child who just loves nature in general and wants to have a good day with your family, NatureFEST truly has something for everybody," Smith says.
NatureFEST is April 4 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Mississippi Museum of Science (2148 Riverside Drive). Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors, $4 for children, and kids 3 and under are admitted for free. To learn more, mdwfp.com/museum.