Buzz over to free Bug Fest in Batavia Saturday

In 2010, when the Fox Valley Park District was contemplating a new nature-themed, outdoor family event, the conversation went something like this:

"An event built around bugs? Do you really think people will come to celebrate insects and hang out with … bugs!?"

Nearly 10,000 visitors later, the answer is a resounding "yes!"

On Saturday, Bug Fest celebrates its seventh anniversary and there's a buzz of anticipation - because this event is not only fun for the family - it's free!

And while its popularity draws swarms of guests, there's plenty of room to spread your wings between Red Oak Nature Center, Lippold Park and the one-half mile of Fox River that connects the two.

From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., insects will be the star attraction once again.

"Bugs are weird, wild, fascinating … and often misunderstood," said Margaret Gazdacka, naturalist and facility manager at Red Oak, where 40 acres of riverside woods, prairie and wetlands are home to hundreds of thousands of bugs.

Pesky as they can sometimes be, bugs are part of everyday life. Most of them are not all that bad.

Spiders are pretty cool, if you ask me. And even though I can't think of anything nice to write about mosquitoes and deer flies, the many birds that dine on these pests feel differently.

"Actually, insects are pretty amazing creatures - and many of them play a huge role in nature," said Gazdacka.

Bug Fest is a family-friendly, stroller-friendly morning of interaction that kids and parents alike will find educational, with plenty of fascinating facts to be learned. Bug-related activities and live demonstrations from insect experts will provide extra creepy-crawly fun.

Learn about the benefits of bugs and the important roles they play such as pollinating plants and flowers, aerating the soil and serving as major links in the food chain.

One in three bites of food we eat is directly dependent on insect pollination: apples, cucumbers, pumpkins, avocado, almonds, zucchini and blueberries, to name a few.

Visitors can begin their explorations at either Red Oak or Lippold; both sites will have free guide books and maps available. Additionally, T-shirts, books, snacks and other novelty items will be for sale at Lippold.

Red Oak will feature free presentations (10 a.m., 11 a.m. and noon) by Terminix, and its story of "Insects and Spiders: A Wonder of Diversity." Storm Photo Booth will be available at Red Oak for visitors to pose for photos and post to social media on-site if desired.

Local beekeeper Harry Patterson will explain the honeybee's integral role in nature with ongoing presentations at the Predator Pavilion near Red Oak. Harry also will discuss how bees make honey and feature various items for sale, such as soap, lotions and candy, all honey-based.

Bouncetown, the Indoor Party Place will be at Lippold with its popular bounce houses for children to enjoy. Bouncetown is also hosting the Bug Olympics - a bounce house obstacle course - at Lippold.

In between and at the two facilities, a bonanza of bug activities awaits. Guests can visit six discovery stations and do net sweeps for insects in the picturesque prairie.

Park at either Lippold or Schneider Elementary School (304 Banbury Road, North Aurora). There is no parking at Red Oak, but free shuttle buses will run regularly between Red Oak and Schneider.

For details, visit or call Red Oak at (630) 897-1808. Guidebooks and coloring sheets can be downloaded from the website as well.

• Jeff Long ( is the public affairs and communications manager for the Fox Valley Park District.

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