Ney Nature Center

Volunteers and staff at the Ney Nature Center are hosting the center’s 10th Annual Spring Fling Fundraiser from 5:30-9 p.m. April 1 at Le Center American Legion Post 108. (Leader file photo)

Spring is in the air, and soon Le Sueur County residents will spend even more of their free time outdoors enjoying nature.

At 446 acres in size, the Ney Nature Center, located near Henderson, is one of the largest and most visited parks in the area. Thousands of people visit the park’s historical farm sites, which are more than 150 years old, every year.

To help pay for programming at the site as well as general operating costs, park staff and volunteers have been busy organizing the nature center’s biggest fundraiser of the year.

The Ney Nature Center’s 10th Annual Spring Fling Fundraiser will be held from 5:30-9 p.m. April 1 at Le Center’s American Legion Post 108. For the last decade, the fundraiser has been moved to different locations throughout Le Sueur County to help promote the county park to all residents. Becky Pollack, the Ney Nature Center’s executive director, said it’s the first time the event will be held at the Legion.

“This is general fundraiser we do every year … we have other (means) of revenue, selling maple syrup, selling T-shirts, but (the Spring Fling) is our largest one by far,” Pollack said.

The fundraiser’s main event is guest speaker Doug Ohman. Ohman, an author, storyteller and photographer, has toured all 66 Minnesota State Parks and has written a book detailing the different sites.

Ohman will cover portions of his book, “Prairie, Lake, Forest: Minnesota State Park,” for the audience while covering two major focuses; the historical significance of the parks and the different activities visitors can do there.

“We’ll go all over … to Minneopa in Mankato, Flandreau, Fort Ridgely. Most of the state parks are in central and northern Minnesota, but there are some in southern Minnesota for sure,” Ohman said.

Ohman uses an LCD projector and PowerPoint for his presentation, and asks a lot of questions to the audience members to keep them engaged. Ohman also will bring copies of his book with him to the Legion, and said he plans on being available for a book signing both before and after his discussion.

The Spring Fling also features a buffet dinner, including wood-fired pork loin and sirloin tips, grilled baby red potatoes, roasted peppers, salad, vegetables, a dinner roll and dessert. Sponsors have also donated items for a live and silent auction. All of the items up for bid can be found at neycenter.org/events-programs/spring-fling/.

Pollack said that the Spring Fling has brought in about 150 attendees and $10,000 a year in past years. While previous proceeds were earmarked for certain projects, Pollack said this year’s fundraiser will help pay for the restoration of a few homestead buildings located in the park, originally built in the 1950s, as well as for summer day camps, field trips for students and general operating costs.

The Spring Fling takes the combined effort of dozens of nature center staff and volunteers to put on each year. The group first starts work in November, and will announce next year’s event at this year’s fundraiser. Despite the time commitment, Pollack said the event is definitely worth the work.

“Le Sueur County Parks are open to all … we want more people to come out to the park and see what it has to offer,” Pollack said.

Reach reporter Alex Kerkman at akerkman@lecenter.com or on Twitter @LCLalex2.

Sports and youth writer with the Faribault Daily News. Graduated from Minnesota State University, Mankato in Dec. 2014 with a degree in Mass Communications. Originally from Holmen, Wisconsin, class of 2010. Fan of the 13-time World Champion Green Bay Pack

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