Sunday, January 25, 2009

Impressions from the Festival

Photographer Jim and I spent Friday and Saturday at the Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival, and what fun it was. I'm not a birder or a photographer, but I do dearly admire a well-organized event, and this was a dandy. Kudos to the Brevard Nature Alliance, Title Sponsor Nikon, hosting facility Brevard Community College, Nature Alliance Executive Director Neta Harris, Festival Coordinator Barbara Hoelscher, and all the board members and volunteers for a job well done. Here are a few random thoughts.

Everybody was so friendly and helpful. I can only imagine how exhausted the folks that staffed the information tables were at the end of each day, but all you saw were smiling faces and people willing help. There were security guards, but they were likewise helpful and courteous. And that set the tone for the attendees - I did not hear one complaint, folks were smiling a lot, and there was no whining!

The exhibitors love what they do and wanted to share their knowledge. These were not models selling the latest product - the people that sat in these booths for hours every day (answering the same questions for hours every day) were genuinely interested in telling you about their photos, their camera equipment, their lovely wood carvings, their gopher tortoise research, their tours, or their conservation program.

There were young people there. Both the Titusville High School and Astronaut High School Eco Clubs had tables staffed with delightful teens eager to discuss what their organizations were doing. And there were lots and lots of families on Saturday, with lots and lots of children who were treated to up-close encounters with the birds on display at the Audubon Society booth (I'd never seen a Caracara up close - how cool is that!) and the raptor exhibit. Little yellow rubber ducks given away by Reliant Energy were a big hit with the kids (we got one to send to Dr. Ducky, Curtis Ebbesmeyer) - I liked the ducks, but I especially liked the enthusiasm with which the man in their booth described what they were doing to help the critters.

There was no trash. There were plenty of recycle bins and trash cans, and people used them! I picked up one small candy wrapper during a walk out to the parking lot, but other than that, this event drew a crowd that respects the environment.

Details matter and planning is everything. Having worked in logistics organizations, I understand and admire good planning. For me, the excellent planning for this event was epitomized by the audio-visual person there at every presentation, ready to help the presenter hook up computers or whatever. Likewise, there was a room monitor for every presentation, ready to do whatever necessary to facilitate the presentation. (One monitor that I talked with said he was not a birder or a photographer, but he just wanted to do his part, so he volunteered.) Great planning and a great community effort!

Good stuff! It was great fun to find Jim's turtle hatchling photo on a Caribbean Conservation Corporation handout. Charlie Corbeil won a second-place ribbon in the photo contest for that lovely mockingbird image we used as our holiday greeting card. And if you get a copy of the Jan/Feb issue of Florida Wildlife magazine, you'll find Charlie's beautiful sandhill crane chick photo was awarded first place in their photo contest Closeup category (minus the words in our photo, but I love it with the words). Lucky for you, we can show you both photos right here!

We talked with the delightful Connie Toops and videoed presentations by Joanne Williams and Birdchick. There will be further posts about those, results from Joanne's charity drawing benefiting the Florida Wildlife Hospital, and the economic impact of this year's festival. But for now, suffice it to say that from my perspective, this was a "wildly" successful gathering. Laurilee Thompson and crew knew what they were doing 12 years ago when they dreamed up this event!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the update on the Festival. Glad it went so well. I'm looking forward to hearing more about it and seeing video clips. The Birding Festival is on my calendar for next year!

Cactus Jack Splash said...

I am so glad you had a good time. It is wonderful to read about the young people being there, lends hope for the future.
I enjoyed reading about the various activities and presenters.