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Applejamm Festival raises funds, educates community

| Thursday, Sept. 25, 2003

FOX CHAPEL: The special magic of the Applejamm Festival brought scarecrows to life and gave youngsters of all ages a look at the some wonders of nature at the Beechwood Farm Wildlife Preserve.

Saturday was a perfect September afternoon for the fund-raiser which also brings home to the community environmental issues such as recycling and conservation.

"This event lets us shine," Roy Lenhardt, Beechwood's director of development, said.

"We're in the business of getting children involved in the environment."

The Ty Garrett, 5, and his sister, Lyndsey, 3, were among those children. They came to the festival with their parents, Sherry and Patrick of Fox Chapel, and left with a scarecrow creation that was more lovable than scary.

The formula for scarecrow-making was simple: secondhand clothes and recyclable grocery bags that were bewitched into garden objects.

The Garretts used donated gray pants and a sweater and gathered straw from the lawn in front of Beechwood's Education Center. A row of scarecrows watched solemnly from along the wall as the Garretts finished and carried their very own scarecrow off to their car.

Other games were created from recyclables, too. A plastic children's swimming pool was transformed into an old-fashioned fishing hole. The fish were the tops of soda bottles, cut and weighted with pennies.

Sam Berman, 7, and his brother Eli, 5, were among the children at the

pond. With every catch they were rewarded with candy. Their father Jeff Berman said the family is always rewarded by their trips to the nature preserve, so they decided to support Beechwood in turn. They paid the admission of $4 for children and $8 per adult to support the programs at the site.

"I love this place," Susan Jones said. "It's local and it's wonderful."

Jones' job on Saturday was working at the fishing hole where she spent hours untangling the strings equipped with paperclip hooks. When not volunteering at Applejam, Jones doubles as one of the 28 board members. The Fox Chapel resident has been on the board for three years. She said fund-raisers are necessary for nonprofits.

The Audobon Society of Western Pennsylvania, which owns Beechwood, sponsors a garden tour in the spring and the old-fashioned apple festival in the fall.

The harvest fair even had fresh-squeezed apple cider, made from a hand-cranked press to wring the last drop from the naturally sweet apples.

About 35 of the regular volunteers showed up for the extra detail. They were helped by representative debs from the Cinderella Ball and Delta Chi Fraternity from Duquesne University. Additional volunteers were necessary as about 600 visitors jammed into the lawns at the beginning of the trails.

Beechwood is much larger than the section on display for Applejam. Part of the festival's mission is to let people know about the nature preserve, board member Dorothy Beckwith said.

"It helps the community know we're here and what we do," she said.

Applejam has been around almost as long as Beechwood, said Barbara Heck, Beechwood's managing director. Both started about 20 years ago, Barbara Heck said.

"It's family oriented with an environmental theme." She added, "It's not a fund-raiser. We'll break even for the amount of work."

The idea of the festival is more important than the money.

"Kids actually have fun and things don't have to be motorized," Heck said.

Even the rides were a natural. Bethany Karger, a member of the Newfoundland Club, volunteered her dog Dory to pull a cart. The large black dog, almost as big as a pony, was as exciting as a unicorn to the children who donated a dollar to ride around the parking lot.

The Newfoundlands weren't the only animals working on Saturday, though. Two birds of prey helped to educat about 80 children and adults. There was a small eastern screech owl and a 3.9 pound red-tailed hawk. The hawk looked much bigger than her weight because of her long, full tail feathers. She had a damaged wing and couldn't be returned to the wild so she is used in the education programs.

Naturalist William Roscher used a kangaroo glove to show the bird. When a toddler ran under his arm, the wild bird turned a blind eye, not even ruffling her russet-tinged plumes. The hawk's perfect manners and majestic air brought the wild side of nature into the classroom yet even the youngest visitor felt at ease.

"We want this to be a comfortable place," Heck said. "If you go somewhere and spend time with your family, and have good memories, you come back for the trails."

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