Calling it “an idea whose time has come,” organizer Tanna Patterson said the Creston Valley Bird Fest will be drawing visitors from as far away as Calgary and Vancouver.
“And I don’t think there will be anyone left in Kaslo,” she laughed on Monday, describing the clusters of registrations that have come from communities in Alberta, B.C. and Idaho.
Since the demise of the osprey festival, which for nearly a decade was a popular event at the Creston Valley Wildlife Interpretation Centre, Creston Valley has been without a major birding event. As one of the major migratory bird stops in North America, it deserves better, Patterson said.
“I first got the idea for a Creston Valley festival when we visited the Okeefenokee Swamp in Florida,” she said. “Then last year Tamara Movold and I went to the Wings over the Rockies bird event in Invermere. We talked the whole way back, saying, ‘We could do this.’ We had such a great time there.”
Bird watching is one of the world’s most popular activities and the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area has had visits by more than 300 species of birds on its 7,000 hectares of protected wetlands. As many as 40,000 birds are in the area on a single day.
As project planner, Paterson has been delighted by the response. Volunteers have stepped forward, sponsors have signed on, ideas have flooded in and, now, registrations for the May 10-12 are rolling in, with several workshops and bird walks already sold out.
“We have borrowed ideas from other festivals around the world and sometimes it’s hard to predict what might work locally, but the response has been amazing,” she said.
Even local residents, notorious for buying tickets at the last minute, have been registering as word gets out that there will be no sales on May 11 and 12.
Pre-registration can be done online at www.crestonvalleybirds.ca or in person at the College of the Rockies. The last opportunity to sign up for workshops and bird walks — led by biologists from as far away as Victoria — will be at Creston and District Community Complex from 5-8 p.m. May 10 in the Creston Room.
Opening night on May 10 will feature a gala fundraiser in the Creston Room from 5-8:30 p.m. Attendees will be able to meet bird experts, bid on artist Bruce Paterson‘s festival art piece and hear from presenters John Neville, Jim Lawrence, Dr. Rick Page and Lynn Nightingale.
An art and photography show and sale, live musical entertainment, tastings from local wineries, Tabletree cherry juice, local cheese and hors d’oeuvres will round out the evening. Buses for the sold-out Owl Prowl will leave at 8 p.m.
Saturday, which is also International Migratory Bird Day, will be chock-a-block with activities including tours of the College of the Rockies’ community greenhouses, a cactus garden, Kootenay Alpine Cheese Co., local orchards in bloom, a canoe ride at the wildlife centre, a photography workshop and several presentations about different bird species. A bus tour to eight art studios has also been organized.
On Saturday night at the Prince Charles Theatre, keynote speaker Brian Keating will present “Going High: Three Spirit-lifting Journeys.”
Four early morning bird walks on Sunday, also Mothers’ Day, will complete the schedule of events.
“There is a collective will in the community — so many people really want to make this bird fest happen,” Patterson said. “I have met so many interesting people that I didn’t know before as the planning has gone on.
“This is a celebration of birds, art and agriculture in the Creston Valley. We are showcasing what we really love about the Creston Valley.”