In springtime, new life flourishes. Baby animals can be spotted in just about any field or barn. To satisfy the desire to snuggle something soft and cute, many of these babies can be seen up close at the American West Heritage Center this weekend.
Baby Animal Days is a springtime festival in Wellsville where the public can come see common farm animals as babies, as well as animals that are not so common on a farm.
There will be chicks and ducklings to hold and calves, goats, rabbits, lambs and piglets to see and pet. Turtles, fish and bear cubs will also be present.
“The main purpose is to share with the public and educate them about the animals’ purposes on a farm,” said Rebecca Getz, executive assistant at AWHC. “Then just to have a really good time and enjoy the cute cuddly critters.”
Some of the farm babies are born at AWHC while others are borrowed from local farmers or purchased from the local Intermountain Farmers Association.
“Our chicks and ducklings we’ll get from our local IFA,” Getz said. “Then they will be put up for sale, but we do keep a few of them for our summertime program. We do have a chicken coop and we do gather the eggs every day, so a few of them we will keep for our living history, and then a couple we’ll actually take to the livestock auction and sell them so we can buy feed and have the right supplies for the animals we do keep with us.”
Getz said some animals come from out of state, like the baby bears from Yellowstone Bear World in Rexburg and the turtles from California.
She said the bear cubs are the biggest draw this year because they are so unique, but they are only to be observed and not touched.
“Because they are a predator animal, they do have very sharp claws and very sharp teeth, even at such a young age,” Getz said. “Only the handlers are able to handle the bears, because we don’t want anyone hurt.”
Interactive activities at the festival include a catch-and-release fishing pond, pony and horse rides and an old fashioned sheep shearing demonstration.
“You could really spend all three days out here and not hit everything,” Getz said. “There is so much to do.”
This festival has been going on for 19 seasons and continues to grow every year, Getz said.
In order to accommodate such a large crowd, the center has around 125 volunteers a day to help with the event, said Karen Larson, the education and volunteer manager at AWHC.
“Without the volunteer program here, we would not be able to facilitate these events,” Larson said. “And Baby Animal Days is by far our largest event that we do throughout the year.”
Larson said they have very loyal volunteers who return every year, as well as newcomers from the community and USU students who want to be involved.
“There are a couple of classes where professors from USU will have their students come volunteer with us, and then they are given extra credit,” Larson said.
Lauren Abigail, an undeclared sophomore, said she is volunteering in order to earn extra credit for her programming recreation experiences class, PRP 3000.
“It’s a big popular program that will help us to see all that goes into putting on a program,” Abigail said.
She said she is excited to work with the baby animals and help where she can.
“I can’t think of a better way to earn some extra credit than watching little kids play with baby animals,” Abigail said. “Plus, I’m excited to get to hold and cuddle them, too.”
Larson said volunteering is rewarding.
“It’s seeing that child hold that baby chick in their hands for the first time, or seeing a baby calf, or getting to touch or pet a live animal for the first time,” Larson said. “It just puts a light in their eyes, a smile on their face, and it just warms your heart when you see that.”
While the festival is mainly family oriented, many older kids and college students come as well, Getz said.
“It really is a great place to unplug and have a quiet place to come to,” Larson said.
The festival starts today and goes through Saturday. Ticket prices are $9 for adults and $7 for kids ages 3-11. There is also a student discount that knocks $1 off the price. For more information, visit the AWHC website at www.awhc.org.