NB Naturalist feature: The Festival of Nature
MAY 26, 2022 — The Festival of Nature is an important part of Nature NB’s mission to celebrate New Brunswick’s natural heritage as naturalists from around the province gather together to learn from each other and explore the diversity of nature in New Brunswick. Each year, the Festival of Nature is kicked off with Nature NB’s Annual General Meeting (AGM), and the Festival takes place in a different location in the province than the previous year’s Festival. Each Festival features different field trips that best showcase the nature of the particular region where it is being hosted.
Since 1973, Nature NB has used the Annual General Meeting as an excuse to gather its members together to celebrate nature by spending a weekend exploring a new part of the province. From the first meeting, the AGM has had a field trip associated with it. In fact, the meeting would have been an aside to the field trips, according to Jean Wilson, who remembers attending some of the very first AGMs.
The first ever Annual General Meeting for the organization was held in Fredericton at Odell Park on September 8 and 9, 1973. It was a very successful first meeting with 82 people registered and several more dropping in to participate in the activities.
Saturday morning’s activities included the choice of a short walk through the woods in search of mushrooms, led by Mary Majka, or a workshop led by Stan Gorham on New Brunswick reptiles and amphibians. In the afternoon, participants had another choice of workshops: Fall wildflowers led by David Christie, and Eric Tull’s workshop on seabirds.
On Sunday, participants had the choice of two field trips. About 35 people woke early to catch the ferry to Deer Island, while others visited Gilbert Island in the Saint John River with guides Hinrinch Harries and Henrik Deichmann. Participants reached the island via motorboat and canoe.
This first AGM with associated field trips set the tone for the years to follow. In each new location, different people, clubs, and organizations played host to the Annual General Meeting.
In 1977, the 5th Annual General Meeting in St. Andrews was planned around the theme Marine Life of Passamoquoddy Bay. It had field trips taking participants up Chamcook Mountain, on a boat trip on the bay, in search of edible wild plants, and to Oak Bay to see how movement along a large fault had offset corresponding rock formations on opposite sides of the bay. There was the screening of two films about environmental issues in ocean waters and a slide show of interesting places nearby, like the Wolves and Head Harbour Passage.
In 1983, along with the 10th Annual General Meeting, held in Saint John that year, Nature NB also helped organize the Canadian Nature Federation Conference in Sackville, NB. This was the perfect location for the theme Estuaries: Where the Rivers Meet the Sea.
In 1992 — the 20th anniversary of Nature NB — naturalists flocked to Campbellton for a weekend of field trips organized by the Restigouche Naturalists’ Club.
Ten years later, in 2002, the Association des Naturalistes de la Baie de Bouctouche hosted the AGM with Kouchibouguac National Park, birding hotspots being the highlights of the weekend.
Most AGMs are summarized in past NB Naturalist articles that describe the various outings, the people present, and the notable nature observed on field trips. Sometimes it was a member of the Executive logging the events of the weekend, and sometimes it was a recounting of a personal experience by a member. A particularly well-written summary is Ron Fournier’s testimony of his experience at the 1992 Annual Meeting Weekend, which we highly encourage you to read in NB Naturalist Volume 19(2), page 24. As a novice naturalist, Ron was amazed at the wealth of knowledge shared with him that weekend and was enraptured by the beauty of New Brunswick’s nature.
“What a wonderful feeling it was for me, an environmentalist, to get better acquainted with our natural heritage, a heritage which we fight hard to preserve from environmental threats.”Ron Fournier, 1992 Annual General Meeting Weekend: The Bigger Picture, NB Naturalist 19(2)
In 2010 the Annual General Meeting weekend was named the Festival of Nature, and the Nature NB staff started taking on a more active role in organizing the Festivals in partnership with a host club whenever possible. We still rely on our members and clubs to lead field trips and workshops. This annual gathering of naturalists from around the province remains a great way to bring people of all skill levels together to take part in experiences that deepen their appreciation of nature, and continue to help in its preservation.