Hundreds of animals, from alpacas to zebras, will greet Alpine visitors on Sunday for the annual Children’s Nature Retreat winter fair and Christmas tree lighting.
Called A Healing Fair at the Retreat, the event will feature Reiki healers, acupuncture specialists, apothecaries, vendors of healthy foods, holistic treats, arts and giveaways.
Founder Agnes Barrelet said the event is a way to promote wellness, and that includes connecting people with nature and animals. It’s also a way for people to discover – or rediscover – the 20-acre site nestled in the rolling hills of East County.
The Children’s Nature Retreat, a farm/animal sanctuary/nature reserve that houses more than 25 species and 62 breeds among its 200 animals, has had to overcome financial difficulties since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Its once-regular flow of visitors disappeared in March 2020. The association, which opened in 2016, needs about $45,000 a month to care for its residents.
“We were closed for a while during the pandemic, then people started coming back, and we had some good months that allowed us to survive and stay open, but some people are scared and staying away. “, Barrelet said. “It was a struggle. We are on the wire.
Funded in part by donations, the center relied heavily on weekend visits from individuals and groups making reservations to tour the premises. Among those who haven’t come in a while are students from local school districts who would come by the busloads for field trips.
Adam Pierce, a retired animal keeper for two years, said he was a bit lonely with no children running around the site, checking out locals roaming large swaths of property, rare watusi, a pack from alpacas and a friendly bison to several slow-moving desert tortoises, feathered ostriches and camels that reside in a realistic oasis setting.
The natural retreat recently added a family of pot-bellied pigs, including two babies, found stranded on the side of the road near the Loveland Reservoir, and a group of five Lamancha goats, a breed known for their very small ears.
Pierce said the retreat is a great place for people to learn firsthand about the human-animal bond.
“It’s important for people to get out of the concrete jungle and see things they would never see otherwise: goats, sheep, horses,” Pierce said. “It’s a place where people can disconnect from the computer, their iPad, their mobile phone. All that is good and we need it, but it’s good to get back to nature. And it’s a pretty magical place.
The fair will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The final hour of the Healing Fair will include live Christmas tree lighting from the site, with hot chocolate, coffee and cookies served. Santa Claus will be on hand to take part in the photo ops. The cost to attend the event is included in the daily admission price – $38 for adults, $20 for children.
The retreat is at 5178 Japatul Spur. Visit childrensnatureretreat.org for more information.