Archery lessons put bows and arrows in the hands of older kids.
Archery lessons put bows and arrows in the hands of older kids.
Sunday Family Fun Day winds up the weekend-long “Ding” Darling Days Oct. 14 at J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge, “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge, and Tarpon Bay Explorers have planned a free day packed with activities for all ages from 9:45 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Following the 9:45 a.m. flag-raising ceremony by local Boy Scouts, the refuge will celebrate the 142nd birthday of namesake Jay Darling with birthday cake in the Refuge Visitor & Education Center, followed by a reusable goodie bag giveaway for the first 250 kids.

New this year, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service displays a spread of its emergency-response vehicles for an interactive visitor experience outside. Inside, when it comes time to cool down, the Kidz Kool Zone in the Visitor & Education Center will include Animal Yoga, environmental puppet shows by Littleton Elementary School, face painting, and make-and-take arts and crafts activities. Kids can also participate in a scavenger hunt of the new Learning Lavatories exhibits for a chance at prizes.

Wildlife presentations outside under the “big top” showcase snakes, birds of prey, and animal ambassadors from the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW).

Other Sunday highlights include all-free narrated TBE tram tours of Wildlife Drive (based on availability), archery skills clinics (for ages 10 and older), a butterfly house, hot dogs, and live music by the Americana Community Music Association.
"We estimate the value of this free event to be up to $75 for a family of four," said "Ding" Days Committee chair, Ranger Toni Westland. "But the value of family- and nature-bonding? You can’t put a price tag on that."

Continuous free shuttle service will run from the refuge’s Tram Parking Lot on Sanibel-Captiva Road (look for signs).

The entire day’s schedule is included below. For more information on other events during the upcoming “Ding” Darling Days weekend, Oct. 12-14, visit

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, DDWS, and TBE co-present “Ding” Darling Days with generous support from the local community and businesses.
(EC= “Ding” Darling Visitor & Education Center)
(TBE= Tarpon Bay Explorers)
Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018 FREE FAMILY FUN DAY J.N. “Ding” Darling NWR
A FREE day valued at $75 per family of four
• 9:45 a.m. Flag-raising ceremony, EC entrance
• 10 a.m. Sing to “Ding!” FREE birthday cake to celebrate "Ding" Darling's 142nd Birthday & giveaway of free reusable goody bags giveaway to the first 250 kids, EC Auditorium Kidz Kool Zone
• 10 a.m.-12 noon 25% off Commodore Creek Paddle, TBE
• 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. FREE Live Music from Americana Community Music Association
• 10:30 a.m. FREE Walk on the Wildlife Side Puppet Show, Littleton Elementary, EC Auditorium Kidz Kool Zone
• 11 a.m. FREE Live Wildlife Presentation: Birds of Prey by CROW, EC parking lot
• 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. 25% off Sea Life & Nature Cruise, TBE
• 12 noon FREE One Tiny Turtle story and fish craft, with Ranger Toni, EC Auditorium Kidz Kool Zone
• 12 noon FREE Make & Take Nature Portrait (limited to first 25 middle school children who sign up that day), EC Kidz Kool Zone Classroom
• 12 noon FREE People & Panthers program, Florida Wildlife Commission, EC parking lot
• 12:30 a.m. FREE Black Water Mystery Puppet Show, Littleton Elementary, EC Auditorium Kidz Kool Zone
• 1 p.m. FREE Kids Animal Yoga program by Ambu Yoga and Ranger Toni, EC Auditorium Kidz Kool Zone
• 1 p.m. FREE Live Wildlife Presentation: Do's & Don'ts of Animal Rescue by CROW, EC parking lot
• 1-3 p.m. 25% off Commodore Creek Paddle, TBE
• 1:30 a.m. FREE The Spiny Stranger Puppet Show, Littleton Elementary, EC Auditorium Kidz Kool Zone
• 1:30-3 p.m. 25% off Sea Life & Nature Cruise, TBE
• 2 p.m. FREE Snakes Alive! program with Calusa Herpetological Society, EC parking lot
• 2 p.m. FREE Techie Show-&-Tell: Reddish Egret and Mangrove Cuckoo Studies with Dr. Ken Meyer, EC Auditorium
• 5-7 p.m. 25% off Sunset Rookery Kayak Tour, TBE
• 5-7 p.m. 25% off Evening Sea Life & Nature Cruise, TBE

In the EC Auditorium Kidz Kool Zone
FREE group Let’s Get Outdoors canvas painting
FREE face painting
FREE DIY nature crafts
FREE dress-up photo station
FREE Federal & Junior Duck Stamp art exhibit
FREE parking at Special Events Parking site (look for signs)
FREE shuttle service
FREE naturalist-narrated, 60-minute tram tours (check in at tram booth upon arrival)
FREE Butterfly House
FREE hot dogs
FREE U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service emergency response vehicles & demos
FREE archery demos, adjacent to overflow parking lot
FREE ongoing Learning Lavatories Scavenger Hunt: Look for sheets in your goodie bag to be entered in a drawing for five prizes (need not be present to win)
FREE fly-fishing demos
FREE hands-on nature crafts
FREE informational booths with giveaways

The following sponsors make “Ding” Darling Days possible this year: ROSEATE SPOONBILL SPONSORS: Doc’s Ford Sanibel Rum Bar & Grille; GREAT EGRET SPONSORS: Wayne & Linda Boyd, Jim & Patty Sprankle; GREAT BLUE HERON SPONSORS: Bailey’s General Store, Mike & Terry Baldwin, Bank of the Islands, Island Sun, Sanibel Captiva Beach Resorts, Sanibel Captiva Rotary Club, Sanibel Moorings, Sunny Day Guide; REDDISH EGRET SPONSORS: Sarah Ashton - Realtor, RE/MAX of the Islands, Casa Ybel Resort, Chicago Midwest Claims, Inc., Jerry Edelman & Maryanne Daly, The Gresham Family, Jensen’s on the Gulf and Marina & Cottages, Tiffani Kaliko and John Silvia, Mitchell’s Sand Castles, Palm Printing, Sanibel-Captiva Kiwanis Club, George & Wendy Schnapp, Winston & Barbara Spurgeon; SNOWY EGRET SPONSORS: Ambu Yoga, Anisa Stewart Jewelry, Colony Inn, Bob & Kemba DeGroot, John & Anette Gritti, Dave Horton, Island Therapy Center, Just Water, Panther Printing, Jim & Anne Scott, Santiva Chronicle, Nancy Tome.