The Schmeeckle Candlelight Hike Festival took place on Oct. 27. This year’s theme was “A Schmeeckle Mystery: The Case of the Missing Animals.”
The festival, which started back in 2005, has taken on many different themes including prehistoric Schmeeckle and underwater Schmeeckle.
Emma Phifer, graduate assistant for Schmeeckle Reserve, said, “It is always a challenge to choose a theme. It gets more difficult the longer we try not to repeat ourselves. We always want to choose something that appeals to kids, but we don’t want to leave the adults and parents out either.”
The festival wouldn’t function without the help of student volunteers. Schmeeckle Reserve only has two full-time staff members. The others are either part-time, work-study students or volunteers.
Phifer’s job is to coordinate as much of the hike as she can, including recruiting volunteers, making arrangements for approximately 300 donated pumpkins and planning crafts and snacks.
Phifer is also the teaching assistant for the Environmental Education and Interpretation students during their 12-hour capstone practicum course.
The practicum students get involved by coming up with a skit that aligns with the theme to perform during the Hike’s Campfire Program.
This year’s 25-minute program centered around the “The Case of the Missing Animals” theme. The practicum students also decided on the Discovery Stations, which are the activity and guest tables available across the reserve during the hike.
Carina Crowe, junior graphic design major, said, “I loved the event, it was very peaceful and relaxing to just be able to enjoy nature for a while.”
The hike also featured a “Detective Scavenger Hunt” along the trails, s’mores and marshmallows by the campfire, the previously mentioned “Discovery Stations” featuring hands-on suspenseful activities, clue craft and sleuth snack stations and mystery-inspired gifts.
Schmeeckle’s office and maintenance staff as well as the students play a role in preparing the reserve’s trails and visitor center for the Candlelight Hike.
Preparation for the festival begins about one month prior to the event, and includes clearing and mending trails, tidying up the reserve and making sure that the trails are prepared for 400 torches to go up on the Trail of Reflections and around Lake Joanis.
Student volunteers also help on the day of the hike by decorating the Visitor Center, preparing crafts and snacks, setting up the torches on the trails, carving jack-o-lanterns, staffing all the tables and running activities.
The Candlelight Hike is a staple event in the Stevens Point community that consistently brings people of all ages on campus to enjoy nature.
“I think it is important for the community because a lot of people show up to enjoy the hike, and it helps raise money for future events and programs,” Crowe said.
The Candlelight Hike Festival as well as the other Schmeekle events, offer a welcoming atmosphere where anyone can come explore Schmeekle.