By Matt de Simone
Science, agriculture, and Botetourt County are three good friends looking for place to have a good time. Fortunately for them, they’ll have their day in the sun along with the local community at the first Eagle Rock Science Festival on May 13.
The inaugural event takes place from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. at Blue Ridge Vineyard. This event will feature county science fair projects, interactive games, and hands-on activities for kids of all ages.
“Since I moved back home (Botetourt), I’ve always wanted to do something like this,” Eagle Rock Ruritan Club President Beth Leffel said in a recent interview. “Science education is very important to me and helping people understand that science is a lot more than standing in a lab over a beaker. Agriculture is also very important to me. Agriculture and STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) are a perfect match.”
Leffel wanted to “marry” science and agriculture toward putting on an event in northern Botetourt. The Eagle Rock Ruritan Club members put their heads together and came up with the idea for a science festival with a focus on community outreach.
“We haven’t been able to do anything for a couple of years because of COVID and everyone was excited to get back into the swing of things,” Leffel said of the Ruritan Club’s involvement in planning the event.
One important component of the Ruritan Club is promoting small businesses and community leaders. The club reached out to local business owners that had a focus in ag and science to be a part of the festival performing demonstrations and other activities for participating festival-goers, all while promoting their local businesses.
Some of the experiences planned for the festival include a traditional “science fair” setup. Kids of all ages have the opportunity to participate in non-competitive presentations. There are currently students registered from Breckinridge Elementary School, Buchanan Elementary School, Central Elementary School (Rockbridge), Eagle Rock Elementary School, Greenfield Elementary School, Lord Botetourt High School, and the Roanoke Valley Governor’s School.
“Primarily, kids– but it’s open to any age– can do a scientific experiment, and then put all that information on a trifold poster, just like a traditional school science fair,” Leffel explained, “any category of science (is applicable). If participants wanted to pair up with a parent or grandparent and do something, that would be wonderful. It doesn’t have to be an independently run experiment. The participants will set up their displays, but it is not mandatory to stand with them although they can and answer any questions (festivalgoers may ask) about their experiments.”
Roanoke Cement Company will have several interactive displays, a wildflower station will be available, a cancer education station featuring an inflatable colon, Botetourt 4-H Robotics and the Honey Bee Club will have interactive displays, Virginia Western Community College will bring a dairy cow model, and much more. Another fun feature for the event is an inflatable axe-throwing display for attendees to experience.
There will be “brain food” as well. Homestead Creamery will be on hand to give out free samples of its ice cream to the first 100 festival-goers who stop by their truck. More food trucks are expected, including Aaron’s Smokehouse & BBQ and A&A Kettle Corn.
Additionally, the tasting room at the vineyard will be open for any “scientists” ages 21 and over to better formulate their respective hypotheses, enjoy a delicious selection of wine, or both.
The event will take place rain or shine. In case of rain, there is a “Radical Rain Boots” competition planned for attendees. Live music is also planned for the festival. A full list of the event’s partnerships and activities are available at FincastleHerald.com.
Leffel commended the efforts of the Ruritans, their corporate sponsors, and the local businesses and organizations participating in the festival.
“We’ve had overwhelming support from sponsors and a significant shout out needs to be made to the Blue Ridge Partnership for Healthcare Careers for their help with the festival,” Leffel said.
Blue Ridge Vineyard is located at 1027 Shiloh Drive in Eagle Rock. For more information about this event, please visit https://www.facebook.com/people/Eagle-Rock-Science-Health-Festival/100089980687779/.
Gold Sponsors: Blue Ridge Partnership for Health Science Careers, Blue Ridge Vineyard, Claude Moore Foundation, Titan – Roanoke Cement Company
Silver Sponsors: Leffel Consulting Group, MKB Realtors
Bronze Sponsors: Bank of Botetourt, Lawrence Companies
- Science Fair
- Inflatable Viking Axe Throwing
- STEM Interactive
- John McLaughlin with LBHS Science Dept will be extracting DNA from strawberries
- The Farm Bureau Women’s Committee will have strawberry germination packets
- Mallory White with Virginia Western Community college will have a model dairy cow to milk and demonstrate 3-D printing
- Spencer Marsh with The Tiny Cargo Company will be using milk to produce a medicine
- The 4-H Honey Bee Club will have a station on honeybee life cycles
- 4-H Extension Agent Tyler Painter will make catapults
- Julie Baker with Blue Hive Apiary will focus activities on the use of honeybee wax
- The Girl Scouts of Virginia Skyline will exhibit the STEM van
- Robin Reed and Brent Watts from WDBJ will discuss weather and forecasting
- Candace Monaghan of Beaver Dam Sunflowers will have an activity on sunflower production and uses of the sunflowers
- Tim Miller of Mountain Castles SWCD will present “Skulls and Scat”
- Shannon Smith will lead a nature walk to discuss animal identification and habitat
- Joanne Yousten of USDA will have an activity related to soil health
- Genevieve Goss with Botetourt Community Partnership will be making Wildflower Bombs
- Lindsey Layman with the Roanoke Cement Company will have a station for making cement from play dough
- Melinda Conklin with Hitting Cancer Below the Belt will have a walk-through colon to visualize anatomy
- John Goss with the Roanoke Valley Astronomical Society will have a solar telescope
- Hazel Bowers will lead a nature walk with plant identification
- The Botetourt 4-H Robotics team will have a demonstration
- Kurtis Kennedy with the engineering program at BTEC will build and then solve a maze with water