It was a perfect autumn day – blue skies and low humidity – to visit beautiful Sugar Grove Nature Center in Funk’s Grove near McLean, IL. And that’s exactly what a host of families did on September 11. Besides the usual lure of hiking, bird watching, and playing in Imagination Grove, the big attraction was “Pigs on the Prairie,” an immersive experience scattered throughout the grounds of Sugar Grove. Funded by a grant from Illinois Prairie Community Foundation’s Mirza Arts and Culture Fund, the educational and fun program was a perfect blend of art and ecology.
Visitors were provided with a map of the grounds and encouraged to collect stamps at each activity center. There was the Snouts, Masks and Muzzles table where kids (and I also saw a few grown-ups) could assume the alter ego of one of the three pigs or the big bad wolf (more about him later). On to the corn crib where two adorable piglets were only too happy to pose for photos. On the outdoor stage were three kid-sized houses to play in, one of straw, one of twigs, and an imposing brick residence. Actually they were all made of cardboard, but no one seemed to mind. At another station, where yellow plastic hardhats were required, kids created their own miniature houses for pigs and tested the homes’ stability in the face of natural disasters like tornadoes. Filling in for the destructive winds were hair dryers.
All of this fun led up to the main event, a puppet show from Suspended Belief Theatre of “Out on Our Own: The Story of the Three Little Pigs.” Appalachian-style rod puppets depicted the time-honored tale of the pigs and the moral that hard work and perseverance pays off in the end. But instead of the gruesome demise of the big bad wolf in a pot of boiling water (after all, he’s just hungry!), this production had a much more savory ending, pun intended. The three pigs and the wolf decided to open a restaurant together featuring the delicious vegetable stew that was cooking in the brick house. Judging from the smiles on the faces of young and old alike, this was a truly enjoyable family activity.
Sugar Grove Nature Center has an endowment at Illinois Prairie Community Foundation so that the Center can continue to provide creative, educational programming for years to come. Please help build the endowment by making a gift. Just click on the Donate button below.