St. Charles Park District: Cupcake Play Day celebrates Hickory Knolls 10th anniversary

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Hickory Knolls Discovery Center, the St. Charles Park District will host Cupcake Play Day from 1 to 4 p.m. July 31. The afternoon will include visits with a red-tailed hawk and other nature-themed fun.

During the event, the first 200 guests will receive a cupcake. Admission is free.

Guests can embark on the walk-and-read adventure “Hickory Knolls: A History of Our Home,” an enchanting tale told through the eyes of Harley the red-tailed hawk. Listen to a reading of the Harley story at the Story Time bronze sculpture. Meet Aquene, a beautiful Harley look-alike from Kane Area Rehabilitation and Education, the nonprofit wildlife rescue based in St. Charles. Take a bird walk with Kane County Audubon volunteers. Learn about rearing monarch butterflies from Beth Nutter of Nutter’s Butters.

“Cupcake Play Day is a chance for families and residents to come out and share in our celebration,” said Pam Otto, St. Charles Park District outreach ambassador. “It’s our way of saying thank you for a successful and fun first decade.”

Otto, who was Hickory Knolls’ first manager, said the center has worked hard to be residents’ trusted resource, “whether it’s helping people choose native plants for a landscape or identifying a mystery plant or animal.”

Before Hickory Knolls Discovery Center was built, park district naturalists provided ecological restoration, plus nature camps and outdoor field trips, but did not have a place to connect with the public every day.

“Opening the Discovery Center gave us an identity in the community,” Otto said.

Over the years, Otto has seen many additions to the center such as the Ice Age musk ox display, an upgrade to the Blanding turtles exhibit and the construction of the Hickory Hideout nature play area. Most recently, the walk-and-read story “Hickory Knolls: A History of Our Home” was installed on the trails in the natural area last summer.

Activities during Cupcake Play Day will honor the character Callie in the adventure story, which tells the history of the land as Harley the hawk and his friend Greta the grasshopper round up their friends to celebrate Callie when she emerges from her chrysalis and becomes a monarch butterfly.

“The natural area is one of our area’s hidden gems. It has it all – prairies, wetlands, woodlands – spread throughout 130 acres,” Otto said. “I hope that following Harley and friends on their adventure will introduce families to this great wild land beyond the Discovery Center’s doors.”

During Cupcake Play Day, there will be tours of the Discovery Center to meet the critters that reside inside and learn about what makes the Discovery Center a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified building. Otto said LEED certification is a rigorous set of standards for buildings that enable them to operate with great efficiency.

“The park district felt it was important that a center that teaches people about their environment be built using materials and practices that were environmentally sustainable,” she said.

Children must be accompanied by an adult. The event will happen rain or shine.

For information, visit www.stcnature.org.