BRISTOL - All of summertime‚Äôs favorite accoutrements spent the day outside at Indian Rock Nature Preserve Sunday, where a large crowd came to enjoy them.
Grilled food, ice cream, fresh vegetables, beer and live music delighted visitors to the Environmental Learning Centers of Connecticut preserve, for its second annual Music on the Farm event.
Upbeat jazz tunes were the main dish. People gathered beneath a canopy and in the grassy area behind it to watch ELCCT Executive Director Scott Heth perform with his group, Wanda Houston and the HBH Band. Their act was followed by a performance from Eight to the Bar and later, Latanya Farrell.
‚ÄúThis is a great way to enjoy a nice summer day,‚ÄĚ Indian Rock trustee Mark DiVenere pointed out.
He spent most of the afternoon standing over a grill, cooking up hamburgers, hotdogs and veggie burgers for guests of the farm. So did Dale Tracy, another of the center‚Äôs dozen-or-so board members.
‚ÄúI‚Äôll be cooking for as long as people need food,‚ÄĚ Tracy said with a smile.
Bristol‚Äôs own Firefly Hollow Brewing was on-site providing beverage service. In addition to being a fun summer occasion, the event also served as a fundraiser for Indian Rock. The 280-acre preserve is home to sheep, cows, hand-built wigwams, a summer camp and year-round educational programming for children and adults.
Staff and volunteers celebrated the facility‚Äôs 40th anniversary at the first Music on the Farm event last summer.
‚ÄúIt was so successful we decided to do it again this year,‚ÄĚ board President John Kirschner explained. ‚ÄúHopefully we get just as much support today.‚ÄĚ
Trustees describe the preserve as one of the city‚Äôs hidden gems, tucked away at the top of Wolcott Road.
‚ÄúMost people in Bristol have been here, either for their kids or just themselves,‚ÄĚ Kirschner said. ‚ÄúThey really enjoy what we have to offer.‚ÄĚ
Coordinator of Volunteer Services and Animal Care Erin O‚ÄôConnell made sure everything went smoothly as people started arriving at the farm. About 40 of the ELCCT‚Äôs 250 volunteers facilitated activities throughout the day.
‚ÄúOur volunteer program is a little over three years old,‚ÄĚ O‚ÄôConnell said. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôre happy with the support we‚Äôre getting.‚ÄĚ
Some volunteers work in the Garden for Good, growing and harvesting produce for the city‚Äôs food pantries and soup kitchens. Others care for the animals and run events.
‚ÄúWe hold events like this one so people can learn about what we do here,‚ÄĚ O‚ÄôConnell added. ‚ÄúAnd get people excited about being out in nature.‚ÄĚ
Local residents aren‚Äôt the only visitors to Indian Rock. In fact, youths from 70 different towns participate in regular programming. Staff plan to expand these offerings in coming years.
‚ÄúWe now have a new director of education, so our educational programming is going to increase greatly,‚ÄĚ said Sally O‚ÄôConnor, who spent childhood summers on the land, owned then by her grandparents Fuller and Myrtle Barnes.
She and her family founded the preserve.
As Indian Rock enters its fourth decade, O‚ÄôConnor said, Education Director Kirsten Tomlinson will be working on a new professional development initiative for teachers, implementing the National Research Council‚Äôs Next Generation Science Standards in school curriculum.
Three generations of the Furniss family sat in the sun enjoying the music Sunday. It was not their first time to Indian Rock.
‚ÄúWe love it here,‚ÄĚ said Angelina Furniss, who lives in Bristol.
On her lap was her ten-and-a-half-month old daughter Lucia, and sitting beside them, Angelina‚Äôs mother Jean, from Terryville.
‚ÄúI love the music,‚ÄĚ Jean said. ‚ÄúAnd just being outdoors.‚ÄĚ
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or firstname.lastname@example.org.