On Nov. 7, there was a historic event at the Valley Nature Center in Weslaco. The non-profit organization celebrated its 25th anniversary. And judging from the over 250 supporters who attended the grand event, it was truly “An Enchanted Evening in Nature” for all.

The Valley Nature Center has been true to its mission of bringing nature to anyone visiting or taking part in the many programs offered by the environmental education center. In today’s world, with kids spending an average of six to eight hours behind an electronic device, indoors, each day… we all need to do our share to get both kids and adults outside to enjoy the beauty around us.

The 25th celebration included music, great food and drink, enlightening presentations, and auctions to bring funds to the center’s new building project. The American Electric Power (AEP) Foundation has contributed $100,000 to the Valley Nature Center to help fund an environmental education center. Julio Reyes, AEP Texas vice president of External Affairs, and Jerry Don Wilson, AEP Texas Community Affairs manager, presented the check on behalf of the AEP Foundation during the center’s 25th Anniversary Celebration on Nov. 7. Reyes noted that the American Electric Power, parent company of AEP Texas, created the AEP Foundation in 2005 to continue to support the tradition of corporate philanthropy of AEP and its regional utilities in support of AEP’s community relations goal: “To support and play an active, positive role in the communities where we live and work.” “The Valley Nature Center clearly meets those criteria,” Reyes said. “The proposed environmental education center focuses on three key issues that the foundation has targeted: 1) the environment, 2) education and 3) sustainability.”

The center also celebrated the reopening of the newly refurbished nature trails in the six acre habitat. Complete with new benches and educational interpretive signs, the trails loop around the native plantlife full of birds, butterflies, and other animals. The work was completed thanks to grants furnished by Texas Parks & Wildlife, Lowe’s Charitable Foundation, and the Texas Education Agency.

Another highlight included the presentation of the annual Frances Till Junior Naturalist Award and Scholarship, this year given to Noemi Vela of Weslaco. Noemi is a star volunteer at the center, helping feed the reptiles and amphibians on display, as well as assisting with nature camps.

The evening brought nature to participants by trail walks on torch lit paths. Wonderful interpretive stations were set up along the trails with live owls, alligators, and much fun! The wine and cheese trays along the paths added much enjoyment! It was truly an evening of enchantment. And the center is not through celebrating its 25th yet! More activities are planned for Jan. 23 and will be geared towards family activities with a Family Nature Day in the Park, beginning with a presentation about the History of the VNC, Gibson Park, and Weslaco. You can learn more on the VNC web site: www.valleynaturecenter.org

Many wonderful people brought this anniversary celebration together including community volunteers, VNC staff and board, and several organizations donating their time and funds. Of course the evening would not have been a success without the many kind donors who bought tickets, sponsored the event, and gave in-kind goods and services. Too many to all name here, we do thank them with sincere appreciation! Thank you!

The VNC will continue to bring quality nature and environmental programs to students, adults, nature lovers, and anyone who enters the wonderful world of nature at the center. Hopefully you will take part in the many programs offered year round, and get a chance to let nature rejuvenate you for the daily grind. See you on the trails!