It's not quite spring just yet, but the folks at Wind Wolves Preserve are eager to get an early start on the season with the sixth annual Spring Nature Festival this weekend.

Taking place Saturday and Sunday, the festival offers guests a chance to come out to the preserve and enjoy free activities like guided nature hikes, reptile talks, educational exhibits and more.

"The Spring Nature Festival at Wind Wolves Preserve celebrates all things outdoors!" said Melissa Dabulamanzi, outdoor education director at the preserve. "It's our most popular event of the year and typically coincides with the wildflower bloom."

The festival started in 2014 as a way to get people out to the preserve.

"We wanted to offer a special opportunity for Kern County families to visit the preserve and have all sorts of fun options to choose from to make lasting memories while spending time outdoors," Dabulamanzi said.

There's plenty going on both days, including guided nature hikes, which will cover topics like birding, tracking and wildflowers. Hikes led in English will happen both days at 10 and 11 a.m., noon and 1 p.m., while Spanish-led hikes will happen at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. both days.

Reptile talks will happen at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on both days, giving guests the chance to learn about snakes and tortoises. Those brave enough can even touch them. On Saturday night at 7:30 p.m., the preserve will screen an all-ages movie in the new San Emigdio Canyon Sunset Theater.

Some activities will be ongoing both days, including: a clapper stick demonstration with the Tejon Indian tribe; an experience with raptors, falcons and hawks; "Pond Discovery" to learn about aquatic animals and plants; the "Restoration Station," where guests can plant a native plant; and the mule interaction with the Backcountry Horsemen of California.

"I'm always excited to see the mules and horses for the Meet-a-Mule activity, as well as seeing the beautiful raptors that are brought by a master falconer," Dabulamanzi said. "It's super fun walking through all of the exhibits."

There will be several exhibitors at the festival, including CALM, the California Native Plant Society, Kern Audubon, Kern Astronomical Society, Sierra Club Buena Vista Group, Fort Tejon State Park, Bakersfield Mineral Mites and more.

If guests work up an appetite, local vendors Nuestro Mexico Taco Truck, Apple Sherrill Orchards and We Be Grubbin' will be selling food. 

The festival is also an opportunity for people to learn more about the preserve, which many Bakersfield residents don't know about despite its proximity to town.

Wind Wolves Preserve, one of 17 preserves owned by nonprofit The Wildlands Conservancy, is 93,000 acres, which makes it the largest privately owned preserve on the West Coast, Dabulamanzi said. The preserve is open to the public every day, always free of charge, and is a great place to hike, bike, camp or enjoy a picnic. It also regularly offers programs for families and schools.

"Our mission is to preserve the beauty and biodiversity of the earth, and to provide programs so that children may know the wonder and joy of nature," she said.

The festival is the biggest event held at the preserve each year, getting more than 6,000 people in attendance in 2017. Though last year's rain meant fewer attendees, Dabulamanzi said the Wind Wolves team was happy with the 4,000 people who braved the elements.

With drier weather on the horizon this weekend, it's an especially great time to check out the preserve.

"Coming out to the festival makes for a great day trip outing with your family or friends," Dabulamanzi said. "It's absolutely free to come, and there's something for everyone. The preserve is beautiful and green right now, and the flowers are blooming."

Kelly Ardis can be reached at 661-395-7660. Follow her on Twitter at @TBCKellyArdis.

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