The 7th annual Rainforest Festival kicks off next week. There are many highlights this year including a portable planetarium for viewing a projection of the night sky indoors and the first ever Rain Forest Run half marathon.
The Rain Forest Run half marathon, a 13.1 mile run or walk, will be the first event of the festival. The run will be held on Labor Day, Sept.1, on a course beginning at central Mitkof Island and ending at Sandy Beach Park.
"The event was organized by local runners eager for a longer distance race in the community," according to a press release issued for the event.
"We hope it will be an annual race and hope one day to offer a full marathon (26.2 miles) as well as a half marathon," said organizer Joe Viechnicki.
The Annabelle Baker Memorial Art show will be held Aug. 29 - Sept. 7 at the Clausen Museum. This year's theme is "Intertidal and Beyond," and a reception for the show will be held Friday from 6-8 p.m. The reception includes an edible art auction and a poetry reading as well as an opportunity to snatch up one of 50 copies of this year's harvest posters made by local artist Andrea Weathers.
Weathers carved block prints to create impressions of the various items harvested locally from the sea and forest each season.
The festival is hosting several guest experts who will be giving presentations as well as leading field trips for kids and adults.
"All visiting guests will give a talk inside and lead some kind of a field trip outside so people can pick, or they can do both if they're extra interested," said Sunny Rice, a steering committee member for the festival.
This year's keynote speech will be given by Dr. Robert Herrick of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute. The speech is entitled "Ventures to Venus."
Herrick is also bringing a portable planetarium and, during the week, he'll guide local students through the structure so they can view a projection of the night sky. The planetarium will be open to the public on Saturday.
U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Mycologist Kate Mohatt will also be on hand to talk about fungi and help community members identify wild mushrooms. Mohatt and Karen Dillman, also of the USFS, will be leading one of several "bioblitzs" over the weekend as well.
Mohatt and Dillman's bioblitz field trip will take participants up the Stikine River to count and identify as many different species of mushrooms as possible.
Rice said all the boat field trips have already been booked up, but there are still opportunities to participate at events in town like the amphibian bioblitz that will be led by Joshua Ream of the Alaska Herpetological Society on Sunday at the ball field.
There are plenty of indoor learning opportunities as well like Kate Wynne's talk on the behavior of seals and sea lions on Saturday evening at the library. Wynne works as the marine mammal specialist for the Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program.
Several activities for kids are also on the docket, including a return of last year's popular Diving for Science event. Jeff Meucci, a dive technician with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, will dive under the dock and show off his finds.
Land loving kiddos can discover dragonflies with entomologist Elizabeth Graham and Linda Slaght of the USFS on Friday.
Kids can also make forest- and sea-inspired creations at two events: Making Fairy Gardens and Troll Houses, held at the library on Saturday, and Sunday's event making fish and fern print t-shirts held out at Sandy Beach.
The festival is a collaboration between several local organizations including the Petersburg Public Library, Chamber of Commerce, Alaska Marine Advisory Program and the USFS.
A full schedule of events is available online at www.tongassrainforestfestival.org, or grab a print copy at the library, visitors center or the Marine Advisory office.