Cooperation, wild creatures part of Critter Carnival

Cooperation is key to creating a fun carnival, even in winter, according to Lorain County Metro Parks’ Critter Crew puppets.

Critter Carnival was all about animals on Jan. 29 at the Park District’s French Creek Nature Center, 4530 Colorado Ave., Sheffield Village.

The indoor event featured the Critter Crew in two shows, as well as games, face painting and an animal presentation. Along with biological facts or biological artifacts such as skins and feathers, guests were able to meet the center’s resident eastern box turtle and corn snake.

The program had 70 people registered and dozens more on the waiting list for the day.

The French Creek Nature Center has become a popular destination for weekend programs in recent months.

“We hope the popularity will persist so that we can eventually do this program another time,” said Rachel Kalizewski, naturalist at the center.

Critter Crew from Lorain County Metro Parks perform in the puppet show created for the Critter Carnival program held on January 29, 2022 at the French Creek Nature Center in Sheffield Village. Appearing with the Critter Crew was Erin Moran, cultural arts and nature programmer, with the role of The Clown. (Richard Payerchin – The morning newspaper)

The park district has used attendance limits to avoid crowding indoors due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. This could change when the weather warms up and programs can move outside.

Programs also evolve based on public demand, said park superintendent and senior naturalist Aimee Harrell.

“It’s just a constant change to try to squeeze out what people want us to provide,” she said. “We have a lot of talented staff on site at this point and throughout the year, so we’ve been able to keep up with the needs and wants of the community.”

Park staff members are happy “that we’re hitting the right themes at the right time for the good market we have,” Harrell said.

“We seem to be on to something here and we aim to keep it going,” Harrell said.

The Critter Crew emerged in 2021 as a virtual puppet show. The first concert on January 29 had Scarlett the black rat snake, box turtles Harry and Bonnie, and Blake the corn snake.

The show was about their efforts to set up the Critter Carnival – and to overcome the tricks of the Clown whose own carnival was scheduled for the same day.

The clown attempted to sabotage Harry’s drop act, Bonnie’s pies, Scarlett’s magic, and Blake’s balloon animals, but to no avail.

“These creatures are a little tricky to fool,” said the Clown, played by Erin Moran, cultural arts and nature programmer at the center.

In the end, the Critter Crew and Clown cooperated to create a bigger and better event.

Park Manager and Senior Naturalist Aimee Harrell spoke about the characteristics of mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles.

Lorain County Metro Parks Park Manager and Senior Naturalis Aimee Harrell shows off the resident corn snake from the French Creek Nature Center in Sheffield Village during the Critter Carnival program held January 29, 2022. Danyka Batista, Amerah Ybarra, Madison Taylor, Cynthia Overton and Dakota Taylor from Lorain. They attended Critter Carnival with Amerah’s brother Adam and Micah Charlton Jr., Danyka’s father and Overton’s great-nephew. (Richard Payerchin – The morning newspaper)

She had the skins of animals such as skunks, white-tailed deer, and coyotes and barred owl feathers, the edges of the wings of which are ruffled to deaden the sound of flapping wings in flight.

Lorain’s Cynthia Overton and her great-nephew, Micah Charlton Jr., brought their own crew: Charlton’s daughter, Danyka Batista, Overton’s grandchildren, brothers Amerah and Adam Ybarra and their friends, the Madison brothers and Dakota Taylor.

They had a close view of the corn snake.

The group agreed that it wasn’t too scary to be so close to a snake as Harrell held it gently.

“I like snakes, I think snakes are cool,” said Amerah Ybarra.

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