ROCHERT — Josefina Partridge walked out of her home in Fargo, ND, with her weary family in tow. Two children and a husband trudged to the car and settled in for a drive to the Lake District.

Partridge often passed by the Tamarac Wildlife Refuge when doing business, but she never had time to stop.

“I felt like I was always pressed for time,” she said.

When she heard about the annual fall festival at the Tamarac Wildlife Refuge on Sunday, September 25, Partridge made it a point to keep the schedule clear and set her alarm.

“I’m glad I got everyone out of bed,” she said, adding that her family was also enjoying the adventure. “We are planning to come and hike here next month.”

Kylee Fredrickson, 13, used colorful leaves to decorate a picture frame at the Tamarac Wildlife Refuge’s fall festival. The Detroit Lakes resident is the daughter of Andrew and Felicia Pedersen.

Barbie Porter/Detroit Lakes Tribune

The park offers several miles of hiking trails, which can be viewed on the park’s website, Some hiking trails were created by volunteers, such as Mark LaBarre. He and his wife Barb visited the park, as they do every year for the Fall Festival.

“I helped build a trail when I was 18,” he said. “It was during the summer and we removed trees, hauled sand and cut brush.”

Today, the 61-year-old retired Detroit Lakes resident enjoys spending his time at the Refuge taking photos of the fall colors on display with the variety of trees, flowers and birds.

Near the visitor center, people gathered to capture a photo of a great horned owl enjoying the afternoon in a spruce tree.

“Her name is Luna,” said Chris Tolman, director of The Nature Connection, a nonprofit that specializes in Minnesota wildlife education programs. The group is based in Bemidji, Minnesota, but Tolman made the trip south to join in the fall festival fun.

In addition to three owls, Tolman also brought two hawks to give bird presentations to visitors.

A great horned owl attracted photographers during the Tamarac Wildlife Refuge’s fall festival on Sunday, September 25.

Barbie Porter/Detroit Lakes Tribune

Another gathering place for visitors was the outdoor amphitheater, which hosted a presentation by Norma Jean Bakka. The White Earth tribesman spent time during the pandemic learning how to make jingle dresses, then made several.

People wore traditional native dress as they stood in front of the amphitheater and Bakka shared the story of the jingle dress, which evolved into a healing dress.

Norma Jean Bakka (front, right) made the jingle dresses worn at the Tamarac Wildlife Refuge Fall Festival. She and other members of White Earth shared the story of the dresses with visitors.

Barbie Porter/Detroit Lakes Tribune

Tamarac Wildlife Refuge Visitor Services Manager Kelly Blackledge helped entertain attendees at the fall festival. She said the event had been held for over 20 years and attendance ranged from 250 people to over 400.

“The Tamarac Wildlife Refuge is known as a place to fish and hunt,” Blackledge said. “This event highlights great opportunities to hike, paddle and enjoy wildlife photography.”

Based on the eight states depicted on the license plates in the parking lot, word of Tamarac Wildlife Refuge’s recreational opportunities has spread. (The eight states were: New Mexico, Illinois, Texas, North Dakota, Maryland, Montana, Wisconsin and Minnesota).

Visitors to the Tamarac Wildlife Refuge admire the onset of fall colors creating a picturesque landscape.

Barbie Porter/Detroit Lakes Tribune