Majestic birds circling river
With good weather, festival promises full view of eagle migration
By Dawn Schuett
WABASHA — This weekend should favor anyone waiting to see more eagles circling above the Mississippi River.
With sunny skies expected and daytime temperatures increasing from 20 degrees on Friday to about 40 degrees on Sunday, organizers of the Soar with the Eagles Festival here predict spectators will get to see plenty of the majestic birds.
Snow and ice that accumulated during the winter has kept many eagles from migrating this far north yet.
"Hopefully, that southern sun and warmth will push a few eagles up here now," said MaryBeth Garrigan, director of programming and public relations for the National Eagle Center in Wabasha. "I think we’re going to see the same thing that happened back in 2001, when the eagles came in one big wave, because of all the snow and ice that we’ve had here this year. It’s pushed the eagles back a little bit."
The annual festival highlights eagles, their migration and their habitat through educational programs, bus tours and boat excursions. With the opening of the new eagle center in 2007, more activities have been added to the festival schedule this year.
"We’re going to make it a pretty big deal here," Garrigan said.
Workshops about eagle banding and other raptors are new for the three-day festival, as are a fish fry on Friday night and Taste of the Valley, a fundraiser from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday for the eagle center that will feature foods from local restaurants and chefs.
John Friedmeyer, an organizer for Taste of the Valley, said the event will showcase both the restaurants and the eagle center.
"We wanted so much to focus on the fact that the National Eagle Center is done," he said. "It’s up and running, and it’s beautiful."
Garrigan said the center has already surpassed its projected number of visitors with as many as 10,000 in one month. At its previous location in a small, rented space along West Main Street, the center saw an average of 1,000 to 3,000 visitors a month.
With the glass atrium at the new center, visitors coming to Wabasha this time of year can do their eagle watching from inside looking out.
"What’s nice is that you’re able to see the eagles and see the river without being cold," Garrigan said.