All sorts of family fun is in store during the annual Harvest Festival at Ardenwood Historic Farm in Fremont. It's from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 13 and 14, and visitors can share in the harvest bounty.
Activities will include harvesting Indian corn and popcorn (yes, there's a special variety used just for that purpose), and if you help you can take some home. Please bring your own bags to carry off your share.
There will also be magic shows, cider pressing, live old-time music, craft and blacksmithing demonstrations, rides on the farm's unique horse-drawn train and tours of the historic Patterson House.
Ardenwood is a restored 19th century estate located at 34600 Ardenwood Blvd., just north of Highway 84 in Fremont. Entry to the festival costs $8 for adults, $6 for seniors 62 and older, $5 for children ages 4 through 17 and is free for kids 3 and younger. Parking is free. For information, call 888-327-2757, ext. 2797.
CENTER DEDICATION: At the other end of the park district, the visitor center at Big Break Regional Shoreline in Oakley, which hosted an open house Sept. 22, will have its formal dedication in a program from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 13.
The master of ceremonies will be Ted Radke, who represents northern Contra Costa County on the East Bay Regional Park District board of directors. The keynote speaker will be Tom Torlakson, the state's superintendent of public instruction and a former state legislator. Light refreshments will be served.
Big Break's visitor center is the newest in the park district, and it's beautiful. It will become the center for educational programs highlighting the cultural and natural history of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
Big Break was created in the 1920s when a levee broke during a heavy winter, and hundreds of acres of farm field were flooded. The resulting shallow waters are a haven for all kinds of wildlife.
Besides the visitor center, Big Break has a scale model of the Delta that you can walk on, an outdoor amphitheater, a dock that is a premier spot for wildlife viewing, a place to launch kayaks and canoes for waterborne exploration, picnic areas and a trail leading along the shoreline to Brentwood. It's a really pretty park, one of only a few public access points to the Delta.
Big Break is located on Big Break Road just north of Highway 4 in Oakley. The visitor center will be open on weekends through the end of the year. To RSVP for the dedication, call 888-327-2757, ext. 2200.
TUNNEL LIGHTS: Nineteenth century coal miners had some ingenious ways of creating light at the end of the tunnel. Naturalist Bob Kanagaki will show some of their devices in a program from 10 to 11 a.m. Saturday at Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve in Antioch.
Black Diamond Mines is located at the end of Somersville Road, four miles south of Highway 4. Bob's program will be in the underground Greathouse Visitor Center, which is located just up the hill from the Somersville town site. From the uppermost parking lot, walk into the park and follow the signs to Greathouse.
The program is free of charge. Black Diamond Mines has a parking fee of $5 per vehicle when the kiosk is attended. For information, call 888-327-2757, ext. 2750.
GOING BUGGY: Insects will be the quarry in a safari from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday at Tilden Nature Area in Berkeley, led by naturalist James Wilson. The group will investigate all kinds of insect habitat, from forest to pond.
James' program is free of charge. Meet at Tilden's Environmental Education Center, which is at the north end of Central Park Drive. For information, call 510-544-2233.
And there may still be room in a couple of programs at the center that require advance reservations. One is a workshop on building a tapestry using recycled materials and live plants. It's from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Sunday, designed for ages 15 and older and led by naturalist aide Morgan Evans. The fee is $10 ($12 for nondistrict residents), and you can bring succulents to add to the tapestry.
The other workshop, for ages 12 and older, will show how to make duck decoys out of tule reeds. Native American hunters gave decoys of this kind to Spanish explorers as gifts. It's from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Oct. 14. The fee is $20 ($22 for nondistrict residents).
For registration and information, call 888-327-2757. Select option 2. For the tapestry workshop, refer to program 30150. For tule duck decoys, the number is 30269.
LAST COMMENT CHANCE: The last in a series of meetings to receive public comment on the East Bay Regional Park District's updated master plan draft will be from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Bermuda Room of Richmond Memorial Auditorium at 403 Civic Center Plaza in Richmond.
The master plan is the policy document that states the vision and mission of the district and sets priorities for at least the next decade in matters of parkland acquisition, public programs, land stewardship and park operations.
The draft plan can be viewed at the district website, www.ebparks.org.
FESTIVAL, FILMS: The North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) is holding a national workshop from Tuesday through Oct. 13 in Oakland, an event co-sponsored by the East Bay Regional Park District.
The conference includes two free events open to the public: a screening of the Disneynature film "Chimpanzee" scheduled from 5:30 to 7:15 p.m. Oct. 12; and "Rockin' with EE," a family festival with music, art, exhibits and prizes from 3 to 6 p.m. Oct. 13.
Both the film and festival will be at the Oakland Convention Center, 550 10th street. For more information on these events, visit the website, www.naaee.org. You can register for the free film at the website; seating is limited.
Ned MacKay writes a regular column about East Bay Regional Park District sites and activities. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.