Within walls lined with blue-green tile, the Chicago Park District puts on its Fourth Annual Polar Adventure Days, partially sponsored by and located at Northerly Island on Museum Campus. Upon arrival there is a line of people waiting for hot cocoa served in cute, tiny mugs—available to the first 500 to arrive.
In a back room of the building, storyteller Mark Kater weaves tales from around the world—mostly folk tales from Africa and China and the Native American tradition, all about enjoying life and chewing food slow enough to savor it. He even brings out a harmonica and a drum to add flare to his storytelling, embellishing his vivacity to the children looking on mesmerized. In the middle of a story about a boy named Jack, a woman stands and drags her son into the ladies’ room because the stalls in the mens’ room are too high for him.
Outside, things are different. A “Snow Play Station” is set up for children to build snow people, snow angels and have snowball target practice. Down on one knee, a man from Nadeau Ice Sculptures eloquently carves a raccoon from a 20x40x10 block of ice. Chiseling away at corner after corner and then using a sander, he rounds the rough edges until his figure is complete and an audience applauds.
When not watching the ice sculpting, participants check-out free snowshoes (some even learning to put them on for the first time) and trek through an open field, hopefully wearing an extra pair of socks. While some of them trek to the “Snow Play Station,” most of them make their way to a group of sled dogs all tied to a rope and highly excited to be pet by spectators.
“We’re doing demos today but these dogs are all rescued. We rescue these dogs and then put them through sled training in Harvard [Illinois],” says Kathleen, a member of the Free Spirit Siberian Rescue. As she speaks to the crowd a little girl walks up and pets Zeus, a white-as-snow, cerulean-eyed Siberian Husky who loves to sing and take “snow baths.” Zeus, like all the other dogs, becomes playful and energetic when approached.
Toward the end of the day and back inside, the Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation staff unveils a group of its birds to prepare for a Birding Walk. Those watching stare at a Barred Owl perched atop a woman’s leather-gloved finger, and she explains to them that it’s a bird of prey—that it hunts other birds and rodents and small creatures in fields, using its exceptional hearing to triangulate sounds and locate its prey. It turns its head a full 270 degrees as it stares at the crowd with its wide-open eyes. “It doesn’t like to be touched, and it’s very dangerous,” she warns. It seems that owls may not be as friendly as Siberian Huskies. (Micah McCrary)