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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26

Let’s Get Wild

Kathy Gallant
Published Thursday May 14, 06:21 pm
Saskatoon’s a city that’s absolutely filled with nature

Photo Credit: David Geary

May 23-29
Various locations

You often hear people utter the words, “Let’s get out of the city and into nature.” But you don’t have to leave the city to enjoy all that nature has to offer — especially when you’re talking about a city with the stunning natural attributes that Saskatoon can boast. The two entities are inextricably linked, and Wild About Saskatoon’s NatureCity Festival will be celebrating this fact during the week of May 23-29.

Now in its third year, the event encourages attendees to look for wonders of nature within the Bridge City’s boundaries. Candace Savage, award-winning author and one of the organizers of the event, says the idea came from a search to answer the question of what it means to be a person who lives in an urban setting, while staying connected with the natural world.

“We tend to think of cities as places that are set apart from the natural world, when in fact, we within the cities are as dependant on the air, water, plants and animals as anyone else, and we have an enormous impact [on them],” she says.

Savage says that even to inhabitants of a city like Saskatoon, access to nature is integral.

“We have the river running through the city, which is — even for those of us who live on the fringes of the city — a wondrous beauty,” she says. “It connects us with the mountains and the Arctic Ocean, and the rest of the landscape. Every now and then we’ll get a moose or a cougar in the city, and we’ll be reminded that cities are ultimately a part of larger landscapes, and it’s possible to maximize the possibilities for other species, as well as ourselves, to flourish.”

This year’s festival will feature a number of events for a wide range of attendees, and a special five-day school program.

“We are fortunate this year to have two fantastic keynote speakers: Dr. Shimi Kang and Cam Collyer,” says Savage.

“[Kang] is a Vancouver-based child and youth mental health psychiatrist and expert, and the author of a book called The Dolphin Way: A Parent's Guide To Raising Healthy, Happy And Motivated Kids. She is one of a growing number of doctors who prescribes time in nature as a therapy for patients, and she’ll be discussing why we need to have access to quality natural spaces in our lives.”

Collyer is a program director at Evergreen, a Canadian charity that works on inspiring action to green up our cities.

“While Dr. Kang explains why being in nature is important, [Collyer] is an expert on how we create spaces that bring wildness into cities and children’s lives,” says Savage. “He’ll also be leading a workshop called ‘Small Wonders: Designing Spaces to Nurture Child Development.’ Within a week we had to expand the workshop, due to a huge amount of interest.”

The festival will also include field trips, birding expeditions, art-making, pond-dipping for the kiddies, animal yoga in the park, walking tours with concert finales and several other interactive and educational activities, says Savage.

“We have a new partnership with the Jazz Society, an evening called Go Wild at the Bassment,” she says. “We’ve also added an interpretive tour on the Prairie Lily with four guides. [The river] is a bit of a black box for most of us; we don’t think about what’s going on under the surface. This tour will look at the animals, the quality of the water and some of the human history associated with the river.”

Savage is proud that the festival was borne out of people’s passion and desire to change the world and find beauty.

“I think it’s really encouraging and important that all of these activities and opportunities are created by volunteers,” she says. “This whole festival is totally a community in action project. [There are] 80 organizations and businesses involved, and there’s a core group of about 20 volunteers who work to make it happen.”

The NatureCity Festival has been growing in attendance over its brief history, and Savage says she hopes even more attendees take advantage of this year’s celebration.

“Our festival is a Saskatoon original that has inspired a similar event called Wild About Vancouver,” she said on its successes. “The Wild in the City art show, curated by Dave Geary, was chosen as the top exhibition in the city by Planet S readers last year.”

Most of all, she hopes that people will come ready to be intrigued, thrilled, and filled with delight.

“This festival is here to make us understand that as humans, we’re as wild as anything,” says Savage. “People feel better when they’ve been outside. These beautiful places exist in our city.

The timing of the festival falls historically into about the time that the Saskatoon berries come into bloom. I mean, if you’re going to have a sense of a city as a place that’s embedded in nature, where better than a city that’s named for a wild berry?”

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