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Colourful gathering at the Back Pond

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What do you get by adding warm sunshine to the annual Fall Festival at the Mac Johnson Wildlife Area?

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A happy crowd of parents and children.

Close to 150 people took advantage of near-perfect conditions to enjoy nature, build bird feeders and watch two dozen Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes race over trails, among other activities at the attraction north of Brockville.

“It’s a beautiful day. It’s nice to get the kids outside,” said Al Hart, who lives nearby and attended with his wife and children and neighbourhood friends.

“We’re not regular visitors but we heard about this activity day on Facebook and we all came here. There’s lots of stuff for the kids to do like going on a scavenger hunt and walking the trails looking for turtles,” added Hart.

Barbara Beck of South Mountain was a first-time visitor to the area, taking her five-year-old great granddaughter Renee Faith on the scavenger hunt, where they fell just short of the 10 items being sought.

“We’re having our little outing for the day. It’s a really good chance to be active and have a learning experience. We hope to come back for March break,” she said.

Beck said Faith loved being near the water and taking part in the scavenger hunt but seeing the dogs running on trails was the highlight for the youngster.

“She really gravitated towards the dogs,” she added.

Kent and Cindy Merkley brought the lion’s share of dogs from Limoges, east of Ottawa, but other dog teams were also on the site where they hold annual winter sled races.

“We had a better turnout than expected. There were 28 different dog teams and the spectators were really amazing talking with the dog owners and taking pictures with their phones,” said Kent Merkley.

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“It’s good socialization for the dogs and there were quite a few people here. Every time I turned around the parking lot was full,” he added.

Kelly McGann, an employee of the Frontenac Arch Biosphere and volunteer with the Friends of Mac Johnson Wildlife area, the Lyndhurst and Landon’s Bay nature parks and Lyn Pit Conservation Area, was thrilled with a turnout that was officially recorded as 145 people.

“The colours are still on the trees and there’s good energy here,” said McGann.

Eleven-year-old Lilly Taylor is no stranger to the wildlife area, coming often with her family, and she was happy to be there again Saturday.

“I like being down by the water and seeing the fish,” she said.

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