The Brown Family Environmental Center (BFEC) hosted its annual Fall Harvest Festival on Saturday. The event was open to the public for the first time since before the pandemic. Organized mainly by the BFEC’s Post-Baccalaureate Fellow Emma Renee Coffman ’22, the event offered a number of opportunities for members of the Kenyon and Knox County communities to immerse themselves in a vibrant fall celebration including hayrides, arts and crafts, pumpkin decorating, live music, food trucks and farm animals.
This year, the festival included the greatest number of vendors and exhibitions in its history, put on by groups including Kenyon-affiliated organizations such as the Gund Gallery and the Philander Chase Conservancy, student bands and local farms and businesses such as the Road Runner Rascals Alpaca Ranch and Plein Air Painters. The event also witnessed its largest turnout ever, with 2,700 guests coming to experience the festival’s revitalization.
The vendors at the festival succeeded in fostering an inclusive, family-friendly atmosphere by offering a number of activities that appealed to a wide audience. Many of these activities also allowed visitors to familiarize themselves with each organization’s mission and work. For example, guests could make pinecone bird feeders with materials provided by the Philander Chase Conservancy or tie-dye bandanas using natural dyes from Community Roots, a local non-profit organization dedicated to restoring abandoned greenhouses and fields. Kenyon students also had the opportunity to volunteer at a number of stations for kids, such as a face painting table and an activity called “Pond Play.”
At Pond Play, kids used a net to explore the BFEC’s three small ponds and tried to catch frogs. Those who succeeded could then place the frogs in a small bin to observe them more closely. This activity not only allowed kids to try something new, but also gave Kenyon volunteers the opportunity to engage with an age group they do not interact with regularly. “The Harvest Fest is a really great way for Kenyon students to get into the community a little more and interact with the families,” said Haley Sorkin ’25, a Pond Play volunteer. “It was also just really fun, hanging out with the kids.”
Another popular activity was offered by Athenas & Blast, a Kenyon-affiliated outreach program that plans science-based activity days for middle school students. At the Athenas & Blast table, visitors could play with oobleck, a mixture of cornstarch and water. Visitors of all ages were fascinated by the non-Newtonian fluid, which becomes a solid when pressure is applied but reverts to a liquid when pressure is removed. “I really enjoyed having the opportunity to engage with the community and my coworkers did as well,” Ellie Haljun ’23, one of the organization’s student leaders, wrote in an email to the Collegian. “So many adults and kids interacted with our activities. It really demonstrated how important it is to have accessible & fun science activities available for all age groups.”
Coffman noted that her favorite part of the festival was running the children’s games, which consisted of a pumpkin roll, a three-legged race and a sack race. “It’s absolutely my favorite because the kids just get into it and the parents cheer them on and we’re all just clapping for one another,” she said. “There’s just a lot of laughs and a lot of tripping over pumpkins.”
Abby Navin ’23, one of the four BFEC student managers, reiterated the notion that the festival contributed to bringing people of all ages and backgrounds in the Kenyon and Knox County communities together. “[The festival] is a way to merge the two groups and get them interacting and get Kenyon students seeing what’s out in the Knox County region, and also for Knox County residents to meet Kenyon students,” she said.
The celebratory nature of the Harvest Festival offered a fun, inviting event for people of all ages and backgrounds to embrace the fall season and learn more about the diverse work and interests of Kenyon and Knox County community members. “I think the community, Kenyon and Knox County, both were just so ready for an event like this after COVID,” Coffman said. “Having so many different groups with so many different interests from both the community and from Kenyon, I think it really added to the communal atmosphere of the event, just because there were so many different people coming together.”