The Wild America Nature Festival Promises a Wild Summer


Contributing Writer
Theodora See

Roger Tory Peterson’s Wild America Nature Festival is the event of the summer which will certainly bring our community closer, and reignite their passion for the environment. The festival is returning to Panama Rocks Scenic Park for its second consecutive year on July 28 and 29. This festival will feature live music, classes and workshops, art vendors, local food and more!

A presentation on the life of Roger Tory Peterson will be held by his son, Lee Peterson. Peterson has given lectures across the United States and Canada as a gastronomic botanist and was the author and illustrator of “A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants of Eastern and Central North America.” His presentation also includes a walk where he will introduce and discuss the uses of edible native plants. This information will be presented at an adult level, but is sure to captivate audiences of all ages.

Renown author Jennifer Ackerman will also attend to give an illustrated presentation of her most recent book, “The Genius of Birds.” This will teach guests how birds navigate, create artwork, and even pass down cultural traditions to younger generations. This presentation stresses avian intelligence; for example it has been reported that crows have the reasoning ability of a seven-year-old child. Ackerman has over three decades of writing experience and her book is a national bestseller.

Between running his nationally recognized animal sanctuary and making appearances on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” as well as “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon,” and even Nickelodeon’s “iCarly,” Jeff Musial will be attending the festival, along with a variety of his animals. Musial is both an expert educator and entertainer, ensuring guests will be laughing as much as they learn.

“Our mission is to help people reconnect with nature and the environment,” Jonathan Weston, the owner of Panama Rocks reported. “In recent years there’s been a disconnect which is bad for the environment and the people.”

Obviously, the environment suffers neglect and misuse when disconnection leads to disinterest. The Wild America Nature Festival will bridge this gap between the community and their environment by educating guests on the miracles of their own backyards. This includes a Tree Talk, where retired Jamestown Community College biology professor, Dan Anderson will accompany guests along the scenic tails of Panama Rocks and educate them on local trees and forest ecology.

Guests can also try various dishes from local chefs, restaurants, and caterers which must include 70% locally sourced foods. “When you buy local, you’re helping your community. You’re helping a farmers daughter take dance lessons,” Jonathan Weston says. There will be a 2018 Wild America Nature Festival Local Food Cook-Off, where these dishes will compete.

There is also a significant role the environment plays in our mental health. “Humans have always had a romantic interpretation of nature,” Says Weston, “You can see it in impressionist paintings… humans have always been inspired by nature for as long as we’ve been alive. Recently there’s been a lot of research done… Just taking a walk in the woods will reduce your stress levels for weeks, even on a muggy day.”

For those looking to improve their mental and spiritual well being, there will be many workshops and classes which specialize in helping guests center themselves and find appreciation for the world around them. Rainbow Meditation with Stephen Gordon will help participants learn to let go of the negativity in their personal life. A translation of the Seneca Thanksgiving Address will also be given, which reminds those of their responsibility to care for and preserve nature for many generations to come.

“Even a picture of a tree at a desk in your office can change your stress levels,” Weston states. Thankfully, there will be many local and national artists attending the art show at the Wild America Nature Festival. There works are inspired by nature – or in the cases of those working with clay and wood mediums – made by nature. Announcement of the winners of the 2018 Roger Tory Peterson Nature Art and Craft Competition will be held on Saturday.

“People who spend time in nature are healthier and happier,” Jonathan Weston claims. “The Nature Festival will literally make you feel better.”

Tickets can be purchased at the gate for a single day, or a weekend. One day admission gate price is 10$ for those aged 13 and up. For ages 6-12, tickets for a day are 5$. Weekend passes are 15$ for ages 13 and up, and 8$ for ages 6-12. All children under five are admitted free. There will also be free street parking, and 5$ field parking. Tickets can also be purchased online for cheaper rates until Wednesday, July 25th by visiting