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Wildcat Weekends beginning in newly renovated, expanded facility

GERING, Neb. – The newly expanded and renovated Wildcat Hills Nature Center at Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area is set to kick off its annual series of Wildcat Weekends events this weekend.

The first event, which will pay tribute to Nebraska’s sesquicentennial, will be Saturday, April 8, at 9 a.m. Titled “Happy Birthday, Nebraska,” the event will feature a variety of activities, information and snacks to honor 150 years of statehood.

“We can’t wait to offer these programs in our incredible new spaces, and what better way to kick off our series than with an event to honor Nebraska,” said Amanda Filipi, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission outdoor education specialist. “This year’s Wildcat Weekends will feature some new topics along with many of the same popular programs as past years. We’re going to have a lot of fun.”

The Nature Center’s $2.375 million expansion and renovation, which began in late summer 2015, more than doubled the size of the facility and created additional exhibit and multipurpose space.

Most events are free, although a Nebraska Park Entry Permit is required for vehicles. For events that include hiking, participants are strongly encouraged to bring hiking shoes, water and sunscreen. For more information, contact the Nature Center at (308) 436-3777 or ngpc.wildcat.hills@nebraska.gov.

Following is the list of Wildcat Weekends programs (All times Mountain).

Happy Birthday Nebraska!, April 8, 9 a.m.: A celebration of Nebraska’s 150th year of statehood. Learning activities, fun statehood facts and Nebraska themed snacks.

Wildcat Hills Wildlands Day/Free Park Entry Day, May 20, 2017: A daylong celebration. Activities include a bird hike, wildflower walk, bighorn sheep tour, children’s crafts and more. Park permits not required.

Wildflower Walk, June 10, 9 a.m.: A celebration of Nebraska Wildflower Week. Learn hands-on identification of blooming wildflowers during a one-mile hike.

Bighorn Sheep Hike, July 8, at 9 a.m.: Guided hike to find, observe and learn about the region’s wild bighorn sheep on a 1-3 mile hike.

Gear up for the Great American Solar Eclipse, Aug. 19, 9 a.m.: As the Great American Solar Eclipse approaches learn about the natural phenomenon and its many viewing opportunities.

Feathered Friends, Sept. 9, 9 a.m.: Learn about birds that reside and visit the region through a presentation and half-mile hike.

Howl in the Hills Night Hike, Oct. 14, 7 p.m. Bring a flashlight and learn about the region’s nocturnal creatures during a half-mile hike. Preregister by Oct. 6.

Wildlife and Watercolors, Friday, Nov. 3, 7 p.m.: Receive hands-on instruction for watercolor painting. Preregister by Oct. 27, 2017 at 308-436-3777. Fee for this program is $10 to cover cost of supplies. Refreshments included.

Nature’s Gifts: Decorations from the Great Outdoors, Dec. 9, 9 a.m.: Create garland feeders, bird feeders and nature ornaments to decorate the Nature Center and to take home.

About Justin Haag

Justin Haag has served the Commission as a public information officer in the Panhandle since 2013. His duties include serving as regional editor for NEBRASKAland Magazine. Haag was raised in southwestern Nebraska, where he developed a love for fishing, hunting and other outdoor pursuits. After earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Chadron State College in 1996, he worked four years as an editor and reporter at newspapers in Chadron and McCook. Prior to joining the Commission in 2013, he worked 12 years as a communicator at Chadron State, serving as the institution’s media and public relations coordinator the last five. He and his wife, Cricket, live in Chadron, and have two children.

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