AUGUSTA — Six-and-a-half-year-old Ben Van Breems walked around Capitol Park on a scavenger hunt for things that would not usually be there, like a model snapping turtle and animal tracks.

Ben attended the third annual MaineFest on Saturday with his great-grandfather, Mark Goodridge. He  spent his morning searching for various animal items that were part of a scavenger hunt organized by Friends of Cobbossee Watershed, one of the nonprofit educational groups at the event.

“The coolest thing I saw was the snapping turtle shell,” said Ben. “At first, I thought it was a moose track, but then I saw it was a turtle.”

It was the first time Ben ever saw a snapping turtle, which was the goal of the MaineFest event — to get children of all ages outside and to educate them about the outdoors. The event had around nine booths children could visit, all with varying educational lessons for them.

The Maine State Museum hosted the event in the park across from the Maine State House. The museum itself is closed until 2025 for a $45.5 million renovation.

Like the scavenger hunt from the Friends of Cobbossee Watershed, all of the educational groups that attended MaineFest set up tables and had activities for children. Among the activities, the museum offered rubber fish-stamping, which is similar to the Japanese print-making style call gyotaku, and Viles Arboretum sponsored a create-your-own flower headbands activity.


The activities were intended for children, but the groups presented learning opportunities that could benefit adults, too.

The University of Maine Cooperative Extension showed examples of what ticks across Maine look like and provided the opportunity for people to look at the blood-sucking insect, which is the size of a sesame seed, under a magnifying glass. Alisha Targonski, the educator who coordinates the university’s 4-H program, spoke about the university’s tick lab, where Mainers can send ticks to determine whether they are carrying Lyme disease.

Freya Leclerc, 17 months, puts magnets onto the board Saturday during MaineFest in Augusta’s Capitol Park. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

She said Mainers are seeing the lone star tick, usually found in warmer climates, for the first time.

“We all have to learn about ticks,” Targonski said. “It’s something that is new to all of us.”

Most children at the event were excited about the free books given out by Lisa Covey, a recent retiree who spends her own money at Goodwill and other used bookstores to collect a library of children’s books. Covey said she got the idea from a woman who gives out children’s books in the Portland area, and now Covey attends events like MaineFest to share the books she has collected.

“Children’s books are fun and beautiful and exciting,” she said. “I see kids search through the books and have a lot of enjoyment over it.”

Ben picked out a book before he went on the scavenger hunt and so did 17-month-old Freya Leclercwho grabbed a Halloween book.

Leclerc participated in the scavenger hunt, too, but she mostly fixated on the mobile museum by the Children’s Discovery Museum of Central Maine, which was a series of portable walls with activities for children ages 1 to 10. Like the Maine State Museum, the Children’s Discovery Museum is in the process of renovating its space and plans to focus on exhibits that involve central Maine.

“Anything that gets her out with kids her age is exciting,” said Leclerc’s mother, Danielle Ziller of Winthrop. “She is loving this, especially the mobile museum.”

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