COLUMBIA — There are few, if any, other nights of the year when a flying squirrel, a rough green snake, a turkey vulture and a red-tailed hawk can be seen at Flat Branch Park.
This month's Family Fun Fest, hosted by Columbia’s Parks and Recreation Department, took over the picturesque park Wednesday night. These animals – all of which are native to Missouri — demonstrated June’s festival theme: “Explore Outdoors.”
Alongside the animals were face painters, the public library's bookmobile, a moon bounce, musicians and other performers. Jan and George Syrigos sang together in their group, WildHeart, whose goal is to bring "the heart of the wild to the heart of the child.”
“I like to think of nature as a personality,” George Syrigos said. “You want to get to know it if it’s really cool, and I think nature’s pretty cool.”
For many parents, the night wasn’t important because of the nature aspect but because of the community fun and the warm weather.
“(The kids) like it because it’s fun to get out and do fair-like activities,” Columbia resident Laura Sovieck said. “We like it because it’s in town.”
Regardless of the participants' motives, the event served as a time to interact with the community and have some family bonding time.
While his son, Oliver, munched on some popcorn on a picnic blanket, Erik Morse took in the festivities and the cloudless sky.
“We get him out of the house whenever there’s nice weather,” Morse said. “He loves interacting with other kids, and we support the community quite a bit.”