OGDEN — The ewe struggled for control as sheep farmer Bob King led her toward the shearing tarp. King tipped the dirty, off-white sheep back on her haunches, and suddenly her hoofed feet were splayed skyward.
Belly exposed, the Western white-faced sheep hung her head low, seemingly embarrassed, as children gathered to learn about the shearing technique and the renewable resource of wool.
Saturday was the annual Earth Day celebration at the Ogden Nature Center. Last year, more than 2,000 attended, and this year’s final count may beat that record.
Mary McKinley, Ogden Nature Center executive director, said Earth Day at the center has been popular since the celebrations began about eight years back.
“We do it to give people an opportunity to celebrate nature and the earth, conservation and the environment,” McKinley said.
“We invite other organizations to provide information about their work and educational options for the environment and stewardship.
“It’s an opportunity for people to learn more about what they can do, plus it’s an opportunity to get out in the spring and really enjoy the nature center.”
Back on her feet in the sheep-shearing area, the ewe was 10 pounds lighter and seemed a fraction of her former self. She looked relieved to have lost her winter coat.
“I think the sheep feel better after shearing, but no one ever lines up for a haircut,” joked King, of West Haven.
Camille Taylor, 8, of Hooper, petted the ewe and kept a tuft of lanolin-laced wool.
“I never saw a sheep this close,” she said. “My brother rode one at the Hooper fair.”
Dad Jared Taylor, 34, watched the shearing while balancing under one arm the three pine birdhouses his kids had nailed together at the Home Depot booth.
“I think it’s great that they show the shearing, and in another area, they have people spinning wool, and they have yarn and sweaters,” he said.
“I grew up on a farm, and it’s hard for me to see my kids grow up without the knowledge I got.
“We live in an age where you ask kids where cucumbers come from and they say Walmart. After we leave here, my kids are working in their part of our vegetable garden.”
Elsewhere at the nature center, a U.S. Forest Service worker used a trailer full of simulated soil, plants and miniature houses to show how removing trees and water plants in front of a riverside home could lead to erosion and dirty water.
Kids laughed when water from a pipe, simulating runoff after a heavy rain, took out the shoreline and a tiny plastic figure identified as the homeowner.
Musicians played Indian hoop drums and wooden flutes. Puppet shows, stories and plays were scheduled throughout the day.
Children waited to have their faced painted with designs including flowers, rainbows and spiders. Tom turkeys strolled freely, gobbling their disapproval of the large crowd.
Booths offered information on saving and respecting wildlife, easing air and water pollution, and living a sustainable lifestyle.
“I just love the environment and being outside,” said Mandy Powell, of South Ogden.
“I forced my family to go out, and they are loving it. For me, it’s about education and wanting my kids to appreciate the earth and everything we have.”
The Powells looked through powerful telescope that blocked out the sun but revealed solar flares. Next on their agenda was the wild bird area, which houses avian residents including a golden eagle named Grandmother.
“I like all the animals,” said Connelly Powell, 10. “I haven’t learned a lot yet because we just got here.”
Jessica Constant, who lives on Hill Air Force Base and teaches biology to kids at Monticello Academy in West Valley City, came to the nature center with a group of family and friends.
“In class, we talk about ecology and the importance of our role as humans to protect the earth,” Constant said. “We recycle at school, and we try not to be wasteful.”
Daughter Madaline Constant, 9, said her favorite activity was climbing the rock wall, but she was also looking forward to getting an education.
“It’s really fun to see all the things people brought here, about not littering and not polluting.”
McKinley said the message of Earth Day is respect.
“We’d like people to come up with things they can do to live more a more sustainable, Earth-friendly lifestyle,” she said.
“It can be a lot of fun and not a sacrifice.”