September 7--Clouds cover the late summer sky, and a light rain comes down over the crowd gathered in the Garfield Park Conservatory’s “back yard.” The annual Harvest Day Celebration at the Garfield Park Conservatory is in full swing.
“It will pass,” says Robin Cline of the GPC, and she gives a slight shrug. She is right, and not a single attendee appears to notice the brief mishap.
On the blue patio, bingo players compete for baskets of freshly harvested fruits and vegetables, while a large group of children circle a rainbow parachute in the center of the field. Across from the StoryBus, festivalgoers sit on the lawn watching a live band. Further down the dirt path, a formidable group of children greets a family of goats and a chicken.
The Harvest Day is a celebration of food and agriculture, and panders to the senses with free samples of honey from the conservatory's bee keeping club, chocolate and local toffee. The free samples don't stop there: the conservatory offers a taste of their fruit and vegetable garden with a fresh and juicy tomato and basil salad. Kids are invited to watch the fresh food, grown there in the garden, as it is made into a flavorful dish.
Garden demonstrators offer variations on garden recipes, while the recipe swap tent invites attendees to create their own recipes to share. One of the more popular activities is the corn-husk crafts, where volunteers encourage kids to get creative with the plant.
Two years ago, the festivities included numerous vendors and a bounce house. The popular County Fair, as it was called, took place in the conservatory’s parking lot for 11 years. The concept of the Harvest Day Celebration replaced the County Fair with the hope of directing attention to sustainability in the city, while drawing more people into the conservatory.
Despite the popularity of the County Fair, Cline hopes the Harvest Fest will encourage attendees, especially kids, to ditch the bounce house for the country:
“Activities let kids explore what we have and ask questions about how we can make the world a better place,” she says. “We want to give the opportunity to experience this magical space… the natural world is a space of wonder,” she elaborates.
The many activities at the Harvest Day Celebration included bee keeping, seed saving, vermicompost, and information on raising animals such as goats and chickens in the City of Chicago. A horse-drawn wagon also circled the field all afternoon offering rides for $1.
Adults are not left out, and many get their fix watching the live music performance by Tarima Son and enjoying food and refreshments from the food truck.
Cline hopes the celebration will grow each year, showing not only how people are connected to nature, but also how nature can bring communities together. Country, community, and compost characterize this unique harvest celebration.
The Harvest Day Celebration runs from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Entrance is free with $5 suggested donation, and kids under age 3 and GPCA members attend for free.
To learn more about the Garfield Park Conservatory visit www.garfield-conservatory.org.