Alan Knothe offers a trip through the solar system one planet at a time.

 Alan Knothe offers a trip through the solar system one planet at a time.

Knothe will be the star beginning at 7 p.m. ET Friday when his “Walk with the Stars” begins this year’s annual Bay Day celebration of the St. Joseph Bay Preserves Center.

Bay Day is sponsored by and benefits The Friends of the St. Joseph Bay Preserves.

Knothe, who used to work at the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve (ANERR) in Apalachicola, came up with is presentation of the solar system from a lesson plan online.

Knothe begins with an eight-inch round ball that serves as the sun. Along the trails opposite the Preserves Center, Knothe places other balls that represent the solar system, placing them throughout the trail in order from the sun.

“It is all done to scale,” Knothe said. “By the time you get to Pluto, you will have walked about a half-mile from where you started.”

Along the way, Knothe talks about each planet, when it can or can not be seen in the night sky, and little known facts about the solar system.

“I’ve been doing this for years,” Knothe said. “The kids, the adults like it. They are amazed how far you have to go to reach the end of the solar system.

“I teach them some science along the way. I teach them you can’t just zip around the solar system like Captain Kirk and the Starship Enterprise.”

Knothe also provides lessons into the night sky, noting bright stars, talking about the mammoth size of large stars and how they are created. He also explains, using his solar system model, just how far from us those stars really are.

“We look at everything in the night sky,” Knothe said. “I am just trying to bring them a little science. It is a lot of fun.”

Knothe’s “walk” leads into Saturday and the full-blown start of Bay Day.

On Saturday, there will be several birding trips led by experienced birding guides Ron Houser, Bay County Audubon Society, and Matthew Anderson, Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve, an education and training specialist with a background in avian research. Birders from beginner to expert will find these tours valuable and enjoyable.

It's the "Real Deal" with Kim Wren, Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve’s Stewardship Coordinator, as you join her on a moderate, one-mile round trip hike through the Deal Tract to explore its history and ecological importance.

“Explore the Shore at St. Joseph Bay” with Rosalyn Kilcollins, Coastal Training Coordinator at Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve, on a field trip that includes walking, wading in water, pulling nets, and other hands-on activities in Eagle Harbor at the St. Joseph Peninsula State Park.

Visitors can join experienced guides on guided tram tours of the Buffer Preserve as they showcase the Buffer Preserve’s ecology and its importance to St. Joseph Bay, one of the most pristine coastal bays remaining in Florida.

Bay Day is held at the St. Joseph Bay Preserves Center, located at 3915 Highway 30-A in Port St. Joe. Knothe’s walk begins at the Center and moves across the highway to the Buffer Preserve trails.

The highlight of every Bay Day, of course, is the music and food.

This year the Boyer Band, featuring George, Cletus and Tom will be performing on the deck of the Buffer Preserve Center.

The Low Country Boil will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. ET and the menu includes boiled shrimp, sausage, potatoes, corn on the cob, cole slaw, garlic bread and beverages.

A $10 donation is asked per meal.

The annual Bay Day, held this Saturday, will include a full schedule of birding, buffer preserve and bay walks.

The walks begin as early as 7 a.m. ET and folks should check for an updated schedule, including exact times.

You must call the Buffer Preserve Center at 229-1787 to sign-up for the walks or trips.

There will also be educational exhibits - Turtle Patrol, Sweetbay Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society, Hairstreak Chapter of the North American Butterfly Association with butterfly caterpillars and host plants, Natural Encounters, the Magnolia Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society and the Audubon Society - a 50/50 raffle.

There will also be a silent auction and giveaways.


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Schedule of events


Walk with the Stars, 7 p.m. ET


Birding trips – Deal Tract to the St. Joseph Bay Buffer Preserve; Deal Tract, Cape San Blas;

Buffer preserve – Backwoods and Butterflies; Backwoods and Wildflowers;

Bay Walks – Deal Tract; Eagle Harbor;

Check for updated information and times. People are strongly encouraged to sign up in advance for the astronomy walk and all trips before 11 a.m. Saturday to guarantee a space. People can still show up for a trip without prior registration; however, there is no guarantee that there will be spaces although last-minute cancellations usually free up a few spaces.

Call 229-1787 to register.

All trips are subject to change without notice (highly unlikely). No rain dates.