By Coggin Heeringa, Interpretive Naturalist, Crossroads at Big Creek, Inc.
Crossroads is excited to host the Bear Clan Dancers and Singers as the First Friday Event in August. It is an honor to host these Ho Chunk performers who will share their traditions with song and dance. Following the performance, there will be a campfire at the Council Ring, and, as darkness falls over the preserve, some folks may be lucky enough to see one or two meteors streaking across the sky. Meteors – what some people call shooting stars – are light from glowing atmospheric gases which are responding to the friction caused when particles rush toward the Earth at approximately 132,000 miles an hour.
The Door Peninsula Astronomical Society (DPAS) had gathered on Astronomy Hill for decades during this annual event, but the “party” tradition began during the Covid years. Members had regretfully packed away the planetarium, resorted to Zoom meetings and had restricted visitors to the Observatory. So while they remained active, most members were frustrated that they could not achieve their mission of astronomical outreach to the community.
But a meteor shower! No need to share telescopes or binoculars, and the Astronomy Campus has a large open field. Someone joked, “Beach Blanket Bingo” and the concept was born! DPAS would invite the community to gather on the hill, each family or “bubble” outdoors on a blanket at safe social distances, like a trip to the beach on the Fourth of July. Folks could bring snack baskets and coolers and enjoy nature’s show.
Society members actually set up an old-fashioned movie screen outside so people could view images from the telescope. Members with green lasers wandered through the picnicking crowd, pointing out planets and constellations and calling out the meteors, to appreciative “oohs” and “aahs.”
It was so much fun, it has become a tradition, but now folks can visit from blanket to blanket and go in the Stonecipher Center and Observatory if they so desire. And DPAS is scheduling two evenings in hopes that there will be at least one clear night. It’s free, it’s fun, and hopefully we will see some meteors!
So pack up your blankets or lawn chairs (patio lounge chairs work best), a picnic basket or cooler full of snack and beverages, and the whole family, and join the Door Peninsula Astronomical Society in watching a meteor shower. It’s just like watching fireworks, but less predictable.
If you want to learn more about meteors, attend the August meeting of the Door Peninsula Astronomical Society on Tuesday, August 8, at 7:00 p.m. The program will focus on meteors, and if conditions are favorable, a viewing night will follow the program.
Summer continues with a plethora of activities at Crossroads: a puppet show, crafts, nature programs, volunteer opportunities and trails which are open all day, every day, free of charge.
Crossroads at Big Creek Learning Center and Nature Preserve is located at 2041 Michigan. Crossroads is a 501(c)3 organization committed to offering education, conducting research and restoration, and providing outdoor experiences to inspire environmental stewardship in learners of all ages and from all backgrounds. We welcome your support.