Fun, learning are at core of Renfrew Institute Youth Festival


WAYNESBORO, Pa. - It was bright daylight at Renfrew Park and Museum Sunday afternoon, but it didn't stop about 200 area kids and their parents from enjoying things that are supposed to occur in the dark of night.

The event was the 13th annual Renfrew Institute Youth Festival, the theme for which was Nocturnal Notions. Featured were owls, an exhibit of moths, safety tips on campfire making using edible fuel like chow mein noodles, pretzels and licorice sticks, and lessons on navigating the universe through a constellation obstacle course.

The order of the day was fun and learning.

There were some daytime things, too. Sally and Rose, a pair of gentle 9-year-old Belgian horses brought by John H. Frantz of Waynesboro, were a big hit with the kids, as was a kite-flying demonstration by local "kiteman" Bill Flohr.


Flohr was originally scheduled to fly his kites on two dates in April, but was rained out both days. Renfrew officials rescheduled his demonstration to coincide with the youth festival.

For a buck, Flohr sold the kids the makings for their own kites and taught them how to put them together and get them airborne.

One of the more popular features of the day had nothing to do with the planned events.

Kids, mostly boys, were happily plowing through the water of the east branch of Antietam Creek in hot pursuit of crayfish.

Jeb Slick, Brendan Kloos and their buddies were putting their catches in paper cups, big cups for the big crayfish and smaller cups for the little ones.

"Look how big he is," Kloos said, picking a specimen out of the big cup.

There were a half-dozen of the little lobster-like creatures in the cup.

"We always let them go," Slick said. "We just catch them for the sport."

He explained the secret of his success.

"Crayfish swim backwards so I put the cup behind them in the water, like this, and my other hand in front of the crayfish, like this, and they shoot backwards into the cup," he said.

"You know how it is with kids and creeks," said Tracy Holliday, a member of the institute's faculty and administrative staff who was on hand Sunday.

Exhibits and workshops were put on by paid experts and volunteers at the festival, Holliday said.

A busy spot was behind the main house at Renfrew Park under the spreading buckeye tree.

Two female folk singers who call themselves Back Porch Music were performing on one side before a small audience while "Mothman" John D. Laskowski of Halifax, Pa., was displaying cases of mounted moths and butterflies. He had a dozen or so books on the insects laid out on the grass in front of his setup.

Laskowski, 56, a retired Millersville, Pa., high school biology teacher, spends much of the year on the road teaching kids and adults about the habits of moths and butterflies. He talks in schools, state parks and at events like the one Sunday. "I'll be doing about 125 this year," he said.

Laskowski said there are an estimated 500 to 600 moth species in Pennsylvania and 3,400 known species in North America. He had examples of many Pennsylvania varieties in his cases.

There are 726 known butterfly species in North America, he said. Many species of moths only eat in their caterpillar stages, he said. Adult moths live from one to two weeks, butterflies up to a month, he said.

Near the creek, Eric Schlosser of Carroll County, Md., was surrounded by kids and adults curious about a pair of owls - a great horned and a barred.

Both were victims of auto accidents and were brought to the bird rehabilitation center at the Carroll County Outdoor School where he teaches.

Schlosser was explaining the living and eating habits of the birds.

"They're eye-catchers," Schlosser said of the two owls. "We often hear owls at night, but rarely see one."

The afternoon ended with a show by the Puppet Factory and the music of singer/guitarist Pete Lancaster.

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