UNIVERSITY OF ALASKA FAIRBANKS

Rainforest Festival promotes environmental literacy and stewardship

Rainforest Festival poster

Each year in September, the town of Petersburg hosts a Rainforest Festival celebrating the beauty and bounty of Southeast Alaska’s temperate coastal rainforest. The Rainforest Festival is a non-profit event bringing participants closer to the natural world through arts and educational activities. This was the 14th year for the multi-day event, which features live music, science talks, nature-based art, writing and cooking workshops, and outdoor activities, all centered around the region’s plants, animals, and ocean and forest environments.

Every year at the festival, Sunny Rice, Alaska Sea Grant’s Marine Advisory Program agent based in Petersburg, shares her expertise in marine education. Due to COVID pandemic safety requirements, last year’s Rainforest Festival was limited. This year, with safety precautions in place, Rice led an outdoor beach treasure hunt, giving children the opportunity to take a closer look at the intertidal zone at Sandy Beach Park, a local recreation area.

Rice divided her program into two groups to accommodate younger and older children. The younger kids received instructions to find simple objects like a shell, seaweed, and a piece of wood. The older children hunted for more specific items such as a blue mussel shell, bull kelp, and a hemlock needle. Everyone who found all of the  scavenger hunt items received a prize. 

Children on tidal flats at the beach.
Young participants in the Rainforest Festival search the tidal flats for treasures. Photo by Sunny Rice.

“It was so fun to see all the little figures running around the tide flats in their rain gear, hands covered in sand, picking up seaweed, shells and rocks,” said Rice.

The 2021 Festival brought back outdoor group activities, as well as indoor events from pre-COVID festivals and added live-stream and online events, allowing homebound residents and people living further away to participate in lectures and activities. The planning committee looks to continue this hybrid-model for the future.

Rice noted, “At a time when other community activities have been cancelled, the festival was a great chance for the community to come together to recognize and appreciate our incredible terrestrial and marine ecosystems. I think the pandemic made us all appreciate that even more than usual this year.”Alaska Sea Grant partnered with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Petersburg Public Library, U.S. Forest Service, Petersburg Art Council, local businesses and organizations, and community volunteers to host this year’s Rainforest Festival.

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