Education blooms at FestiFall

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Event at Hudson Gardens generates funds for student field trips

By Ramsey Scott

Hudson Gardens will open its doors Saturday to bring back FestiFall for a second year. 

The festival, which debuted in 2011 before skipping last year, gives people a chance not only to roam the gardens but to celebrate fall from an environmental and educational standpoint, said Melanie Feddersen, educational manager at Hudson Gardens. 

“At its core, we want this to be fun. But we want to have that learning component as well,” Feddersen said. “We made it really interactive. It’s not just presentations but things you can actually take part in.”

One of the main goals of FestiFall was to make it affordable, Feddersen said. Since the entrance fee is $3 and all the activities, excluding food, are free, a family on a budget can attend for a reasonable amount. 

The day will feature multiple activities, including a hay maze, a beekeeping demonstration and a presentation on the secret life of Colorado owls that will feature several live owls. 

“It’s just a beautiful time of year. It’s nice to be outside and walking around. What I really love is people coming to Hudson Gardens and enjoying the natural aspect of the gardens in many different ways,” Feddersen said. “But I’m also looking forward to the owls because I just think they’re cool.”

Along with the activities, Hudson Gardens will host a pumpkin fund-raiser for its educational scholarship program, in which students from area schools visit the gardens. Hudson Gardens has grown a plethora of pumpkins, and the prices range from $5 to $30. 

The pumpkin proceeds help reduce the costs of the garden’s programs and pay for 100 percent of the transportation costs of schools where more than 50 percent of the students qualify for free lunches. 

Without that help, many schools couldn’t afford the trip, which can cost several hundred dollars.

“They’re providing a tremendous service by paying the cost for our buses. It gives an opportunity for our community that we’d otherwise not have,” said Amy Stevens, a teacher at Doull Elementary School in south Denver.

Stevens has been able to take her students on field trips to the gardens, thanks to the scholarships. The hands-on educational opportunities are invaluable for students trying to learn about nature, Stevens said. 

“They’re paying for double and triple buses. They don’t even ask; they just pay for it,” Stevens said. “It’s a lot money.”