The Wild America Nature Festival


Article Contributed by
Mallery Rockwell

Excitement builds as farmers and furry friends get ready for the Wild America Nature Festival. The Panama Rocks Scenic Park and Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History (RTPI) are hosting the Wild America Nature Festival July 29–30. This extraordinary event will take place on the grounds of Panama Rocks Scenic Park for the first time since 18 years ago, when Panama Rocks presented a similar folk festival.

Roger Tory Peterson was instrumental in starting the 20th century environmental movement. In 1953, Roger Tory Peterson met his British friend and seabird expert, James Fisher, in Newfoundland and traveled 30,000 miles around the continent. Their book, Wild America, tells the epic story of their hundred-day trip. Their journey influenced creation of ‘Wild America’ in the Wild America Nature Festival.

Wild Animals!
“The event’s going to be really, really exciting,” said Jonathan Weston, manager of Panama Rocks. The festival promises fun for all ages, including an arts and crafts show, local food cook-off competition and farmer’s market. They will offer opportunities to see wild animals, take classes and workshops, and listen to talks given by well-known speakers and artists. Two local bands, Davis & Eng and Steel Rails, will play traditional folk music. “You can come for the whole weekend and still couldn’t do everything, which is fun,” Weston said. “There’s a lot for people to do.”

Animal lovers will see and learn about the wild animals, including some that have been successfully rehabilitated, which will be brought buy RTPI, Jamestown Audubon, Wild Spirit Education, American Hawkeye, and the Erie Zoo. People can meet live frogs and other amphibians brought by RTPI. “We’ve been working on this for years and this will be, I believe, the best event we’ve ever done,” Weston said.

Local Source Cook-off
“We have phenomenal events, we have amazing art, great music, the best food you can get in this area, and locally sourced,” Weston said. The local food cook-off and farmer’s market is sponsored by Edible Western New York. The White Carrot, Labyrinth Press Company, Reverie Creamery, Green Heron Growers. Superfresh! Organic Cafe will serve delicious locally sourced food in the festival’s cook-off. Farmers and local food producers will sell fresh food fit for appetites big and small. For the competition, participants must make at least one dish that is 75% locally sourced.

Art and Nature
Forty nature-oriented artists, many local, will include painters, ceramic artists, woodworkers, photographers, and more displaying artwork made from organic materials such as wood and clay. Renowned painters Michael DiGiorgio and Thomas Paquette will show off their artwork. Visitors can buy a variety of unique gifts for friends or keep them as souvenirs. “You can buy some smaller things like jewelry and if you want to buy that awesome piece of art for your living room you can do that too,” Weston said.

A World to Save
The two main speakers are Douglas Tallamy, entomologist and author of Bringing Nature Home, and Michael Phillips, an orchardist and author of three books. Phillips will give important talks and workshops on how to grow healthy fruit. He is the nation’s leading scholar advancing “organic’s final frontier” and finding how to effectively grow good fruit without using potentially harmful chemicals.

Tallamy’s research taught him about how native plants and insects affect the biodiversity of his property in Pennsylvania, originally overrun with invasive species. He will discuss the essential role of yards and gardens in the ecosystems that sustain life. He has given hundreds of talks nationwide. Bringing Nature Home has been a best seller on Amazon for the last 10 years. “There isn’t much nature left, so we need to protect what we have,” Tallamy said. He hopes people will see that small-scale choices can lead to bigger change for the environment. “I want people to save the world,” Tallamy said.

Admission to the Wild America Nature Festival can be purchased for one day or the entire weekend. Pre-sale adult weekend passes are $10.30 and pre-sale youth weekend passes are $5.15. To learn more, visit or call 716-782-2845.