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Davis, California

Thursday, May 23, 2024

California Duck Days Festival returns for another year

The Yolo Basin Foundation held its annual festival at the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area headquarters


By HANNAH SCHRADER city@theaggie.org


The Yolo Basin Foundation celebrated local Northern California wildlife once again at its California Duck Days Festival on April 27. The festival featured a variety of activities, including wetland arts and crafts, live animals and interactive exhibits.

The California Duck Days Festival is a family-oriented event that seeks to educate children on the natural environment and wildlife in the Sacramento area. Festival goers built wooden duck boxes to create nesting opportunities, discovered invertebrate life living in wetland ponds and dissected owl pellets. Over 20 local environmental organizations were in attendance at the event.

The Yolo Basin Foundation was founded in 1990 after the Yolo Basin Working Group held a meeting that brought together local landowners and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to discuss the proposal for the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area. Since then, the foundation has continued bringing landowners, organizations and people together to protect thousands of acres of wetland.

Jan Smutny-Jones, the chairperson of the Yolo Basin Foundation, talked about the mission behind the Duck Days Festival.

“I feel it’s very important that children get exposed to the outdoors, to the way the world works and to how these different systems operate,” Smutny-Jones said. “And so we’re hopefully creating another generation of people who are environmentally conscious and pay attention to things […] That’s what you’ll see if you come out on Saturday: all those kids running around in our education program.”

Smutny-Jones then talked about his favorite part of the Duck Days Festival.

“I think my favorite part over the years is the enthusiasm that the children bring [to the festival],” Smutny-Jones said. “Wandering from table to table to get little stamps.”

Lindsay Weston, the vice chairperson of the Yolo Basin Foundation, talked about how the festival originally started.

“It started about 25 years ago, and it used to be over at the Veterans Memorial Center,” Weston said. “It was a three-day event, and there were a lot of field trips into the area to look at the rafters and into the wildlife area. And over time, it’s morphed — especially with COVID, the huge changes brought by COVID — that now it is really oriented to families and [is] a […] day-long event where there are all these hands-on activities.”

Weston then spoke about what she was most looking forward to at the festival this year.

  “It’s really fun to see the enthusiasm and the awe that is generated when children get to hold baby ducklings or when they get to paint the duck decoys or when the kids look at the bats close up,” Weston said. “Obviously, you can’t handle bats, but we have an amazing bat program, and everybody is fascinated by bats. So I love seeing all the families that come in that are really enthused to learn about all these opportunities that are local and learn about the wildlife area.”

Written by: Hannah Schrader — city@theaggie.org



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