Birding and nature festivals have boomed over the past decade here in the USA. I co-founded the New River Birding and Nature Festival 13 years ago to help boost tourism in our off-season, and raise money for nature-based, hands-on school-age education.
While some events boast up to 5,000 participants, like the biggest day in birding and the Space Coast festival, ours is small and intimate with a back-porch feel. We provide guided trips with no more than 20 guests and 4 guides per trip. We are famous for finding wood warblers singing on-territory.
Each day after our field trips, we have 2 presentations: the “popcorn talk,” which is a casual, short program by one of our guides/authors, and the evening keynote after a home-cooked dinner. All of the guides are well-known stars of the birding world, and most of them are authors. We pay a lot of attention to the ecosystem and our area’s rich coal mining history. Most of our trips are in and around the New River National River in Southern West Virginia. This area is under the protection of the National Parks System.
The proceeds from this event are used to fund a 501c3 non-profit organization called the Fayette County Education Fund. This organization sponsors the Fayette County Leadership Program for high school juniors. This is a competitive admission program, and only 12 students are accepted from across the county to take part in the year-long curriculum. All graduates receive a $1,000 scholarship. We also provide hands-on field trips, studying our local environment for hundreds of elementary and middle school-aged children, plus weekend programing for the public.
All of this is made possible because people love spending time together enjoying nature in a fun and informative setting.
You can learn more on our homepage at www.birding-wv.com. Or, feel free to contact me.
Managing Partner, Opossum Creek Retreat www.opossumcreek.com
President, Fayette County Education Fund
Co-founder, New River Birding and Nature Festival