Returning to the Wetlands Institute after a three-year hiatus is the popular family-friendly Turtle Fest featuring a full day of contests, prizes, and educational activities for kids of all ages.

This year's Turtle Fest will be on Friday, July 21st with a schedule of activities from 10 am to 4 pm hosted at the Wetlands Institute located on Stone Harbor Boulevard, a half mile before the 96th Street Drawbridge. Turtle Fest is an event for adults and kids to enjoy activities such as an Aquarium Teaching and Touch Tank, Turtle Arts and Crafts, Turtle Basking Station and Enrichment Zone, Guess the Eggs Contest, a Terrapin-themed Egg Hunt, along with Fiddler Crab Crabbing Tournament. There will also be appearances by Scute the ‘Tute Terrapin mascot and the friendly 26 lbs. Snapping Turtle Spike, who was the blue ribbon winner at the 44th Annual New York Turtle and Tortoise Society Show.

The Wetlands Institute is a non-profit science-based organization whose goal is to protect and preserve New Jersey Wetlands and coastal ecosystems while also educating the public about different issues and topics that impact the local ecosystems along with impact local communities. Since opening in 1972, the Wetlands Institute has been the premier resource for all of New Jersey about the unique coastal ecosystems in the state and one of the top research entities in the United States concerning Wetlands and the coexistence of animal life with the ever-changing nature of community life and tourism in the region.

Turtle Fest first started back in 2011 at the Wetlands Institute with the goal to be a fundraiser for Terrapin Conservation in South Jersey. Susan and Steve Ahern run the Sea Isle Terrapin Rescue, helping Diamondback Terrapins and their eggs survive the busy tourism season that happens simultaneously with the turtles' breeding season. The Aherns have been volunteering with the Wetlands Institute for almost two decades and have been closely involved with the Turtle Fest over the years along with being a part of this year's Sara the Turtle Festival in Sea Isle City.

I spoke with Susan Ahern about the return of the Wetlands Institute Turtle Fest after a three-year hiatus and she credits Wetlands Institute Education Director Brooke Knapick and Research Director Lisa Ferguson for helping to bring back Turtle Fest:

"We started Turtle Fest back in 2011 to coincide with the beginning of the nesting season. The first year we hosted a pasta dinner, along with various activities, to raise awareness of these important marsh dwellers.  The following eight years, it was held as an “all you can eat” pancake breakfast on the Saturday before Easter, including educational games where the kids earned turtle bucks that they turned in for prizes. It culminated in an Easter Egg hunt (with) SCUTE the Wetlands Institute’s mascot always a big hit. Unfortunately, (COVID-19 Pandemic) intervened and the event was not held for the last 3 years.  All the staff at the Wetlands Institute deserves credit (for the return of Turtle Fest.)"

For more information about the 2023 Turtle Fest at Wetlands Institute along with ticket pricing information, you can visit the event's webpage here.

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