Wednesday, June 18, 2014

My Time at the Biggest Week in American Birding

As many of you know, it's been a few weeks since the end of the Biggest Week in American Birding. It's taken me quite a while to figure out exactly what I wanted to say about this year's festival. Since I'm the field trip coordinator, you might expect that I would spend most of my post writing about all of the awesome birds that were seen on our field trips this year (and I just might do that in another post), but that really wouldn't do the festival justice. I could also write about all of the incredible speakers that presented at the festival, but that too would not really tell you what the event is all about. I really find that there are two aspects of the event that consistently blow me away more than anything else - the people and the impact on the local economy.

Even though the Biggest Week is a birding festival at its core, it wouldn't be such a great event without all of the wonderful people that live in and travel to northwest Ohio to attend.  You meet people from all over the US and even around the world! Every year, it feels like a reunion of all of my birding friends, and I love reconnecting with old friends and making new ones. We are already looking forward to other festivals this year to rendezvous at and are excited about next year's Biggest Week!

One of our new friends, Bruce Richardson. Not only was he fun to bird with, but he is one heck of an entertainer!
Check out his music and comeback tour on his website.
The economic impact is the other aspect of this festival that is quite impressive to me. We ended up having almost 1,500 registered participants and thousands of others birding in the region (but not necessarily attending the festival). This translates to major money for many of the surrounding communities. As I said above, people travel from all over the world to attend Biggest Week. Participants book rooms at hotels, eat at local restaurants, and fill their gas tanks as they bird in the region, and the local communities are realizing just how much money birders spend on necessities while visiting the area. It's amazing to see the local businesses embracing the birding community.

One such business is Eagle's Nest restaurant which is one of the closest businesses to Maumee Bay State Park where the festival is headquartered. Stephanie and I were lucky one afternoon to go in when it wasn't very busy and had a chance to chat with the owner. It's a small family business, and they couldn't be happier about the traffic that the Biggest Week drives into their restaurant. They serve great sandwiches and awesome ice cream, so be sure to stop in if you are in northwest Ohio!

Not only is the local community supporting the festival, the whole state is getting involved. May 10th was the first ever Bird Ohio Day. There was a big celebration near the entrance to the boardwalk at Magee Marsh with several politicians in attendance to celebrate all that birding brings to Northwest Ohio!

Next year's festival dates are already set - May 8-17, 2015. I hope to see all of you there!

I leave you with one of the stars of the festival, a Bay-breasted Warbler.

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