O’Keefe, an educator for the Michigan State University Extension office and Michigan Sea Grant program, manned one of the nature-themed tables at the Grand Haven Salmon Festival Kid Zone on the city’s waterfront Saturday.
Other exhibitors included a butterfly tent filled with about 50 adult Monarchs. Inside the tent, Holli Ward of Michigan Butterflies from Jenison described the winged creatures’ unique lives; while her husband, Dustin Ward, showed kids the insects’ earlier stages outside the tent.
“We raise and research Monarch butterflies and bring them out to events like this today, and let people hang out and interact with the butterflies,” Holli said Saturday.
Across the lawn, Jim McGrath with Nature Discovery from Williamston draped a black snake around 14-year-old Sophia Snipes’ neck. The Rochester Hills girl was unshakable.
“I love snakes — I always have,” she said.
“We have over 100 Michigan reptiles and amphibians,” said Jim’s wife, Carol McGrath. “We travel throughout the state teaching people about Michigan wildlife. My husband and I noticed that ... populations were going down, and we felt we wanted to do something about it. ... We really believe — if you know about it, you can’t help but care about it.”
On the other side of Waterfront Stadium on Saturday, the Salmon Festival’s nature-themed Art Fair was a little less busy.
Pat Goodwin and her daughter, Ann Zimmer, were surrounded by dozens of colorful paintings made by Pat’s husband, Bob. They had not sold one in the show’s first four hours.
“But we get lots of compliments on them, so that’s what counts,” Zimmer said.
Packed inside a large tent in the Municipal Marina parking lot, hundreds of people bought tickets to sample wine and salmon prepared by several chefs in the annual Salmon Festival Cookoff.
Just outside the tent, Bonnie Hunter of Grand Rapids faced off against Wendy Swindle of Hudsonville in the first round of the Rycenga Purple Romp Grape Stomp. Hunter was a first-timer, but Swindle is a stomping veteran who returned Saturday after a seven-year hiatus.
“This is actually an annual event for us,” Swindle said. “Actually, the last time I did it, he was in my belly” — pointing to her 6-year-old son, Ty.
Swindle said she would bravely sample the wine made from the stomping competition, but Hunter would have not of it.
“They solicited me in line and I was stupid enough to say, ‘Sure, let’s go for it,’” Hunter explained how she got into the contest. “Hey, it’s a ‘bucket list’ thing. ... Cross that one off!”
The eighth annual Salmon Festival, led by the Grand Haven Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, kicked off Friday night with the Fresh Catch Fish Boil. Organizers said about 1,000 meals were served.
Dozens of charter boats were out Saturday morning, and they brought in a bounty of big fish that were weighed in at Waterfront Stadium in the afternoon.
The festival concluded Saturday night with a live-music party under the Grand Haven Area Jaycees’ Fall Harvest Entertainment Tent at the marina parking lot.
To see more photos from the festival, click here.
To see more video from the festival, click here.