"The Family Festival is always our largest event," said Marina Robertson, executive director for the Preserve. "We had about 200 last year but then again we had a huge rainstorm that came at about 2 o'clock so that really cut the day short. So I'm hoping for about 250 to 300 this year.
"It's one of our community outreach events. We [also] have three hikes this year," she said, referring to the venue's spring, summer and fall treks. "[The Family Festival is] a way of letting the public know about the Preserve and come and have a good time and maybe learn some things at the Preserve. I'm hoping that they'll gain an appreciation of the outdoors and want to learn more about our natural habitats that we have here in Bartow County."
On Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., the Family Festival will offer a wide array of complimentary activities, such as a fly fishing demonstration by Cohutta Fishing Co., guided hikes starting every half hour, a reptile presentation by Ronnie Holcomb and activities relating to animal tracks and wildlife. Other offerings will include folktales by storyteller Natalie Jones at the Lakeside Amphitheater at 11 a.m., noon, 1 p.m. and 2 p.m.; and "Professor Ed's Edible Wild Plants" at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., which will be conducted by Ed Bostick -- Preserve board member and a retired biology professor at Kennesaw State University. To keep visitors refreshed, Coconuts Ice Cream will be on-site selling shaved ice.
Situated off Highway 61 in southwest Bartow County, the venue features three trails totaling about 2 miles in length, a swinging bridge, a 9-acre lake and an amphitheater. The Preserve was formed as a private, nonprofit corporation in 1999 when the late Gay Pettit Dellinger and her children initially donated 60 acres of property to this endeavor.
The property generally is open by appointment only, tailoring educational programs, such as tree identification and water testing, to youth groups throughout the year. During the 2009 to 2010 school year, about 750 children visited the site, the majority of whom were in pre-K to seventh grade at Cartersville or Bartow County schools. Since 2006, about 3,800 students have visited the venue.
With the Preserve's emphasis on nature and conservation, Andy Bowen -- owner of Cohutta Fishing Co. in Cartersville -- said it was an ideal organization to lend his business's support.
"From a preservation standpoint, [and as far as] conservation and education for kids -- it's a good thing too," Bowen said. "That's one reason I wanted to be a part of that this weekend, because for one, I've got a 6-year-old daughter and I want her to be a part of that, and I think it's good for kids to learn a little bit about the environment when they're young and learn to protect it and preserve it as they grow older so we'll all have something for future generations to enjoy. ... [At the event] we're just going to show people basically what casting is about -- how to cast a fly rod.
"I haven't talked to Marina this week. I don't know if we're going to actually fish or not as far as actually making a cast into the water, or if I'm just going to be out in a grassy area by the lake casting. That's probably what it'll be more than anything -- talking a little bit about fly fishing," he said, adding for those whose interests are piqued, Cohutta Fishing Co. offers classes that are posted on www.cohuttafishingco.com.
For more information about the Preserve and its Family Festival, visit www.pettitpreserve.org or call 678-848-4179.