Ecosystem, economy getting a boost form Eagle Expo
PATTERSON, La. — As people arrive from all over the country to experience the eighth annual Eagle Expo and More, the message is both the ecosystem and the event’s economic impact on St. Mary Parish.
Carrie Stansbury, executive director of the Cajun Coast Visitor and Convention Bureau, estimates the economic benefit for the parish to be about $90,000 from the three-day event.
Stansbury said about 150 people are expected for the boat tours, lectures and other events associated with the Eagle Expo. That tops the average attendance of 100 in past years, she said, adding that every boat tour into the Atchafalaya Basin is at capacity.
“This is traditionally, for the swamp tour operators, the slow time because it’s cold. … We do the event in February because the trees are dead, and it’s easier to spot the birds. Also, the eaglets are just getting out of their shells and the parents are feeding and teaching them,” she said.
Those attending are local as well as visitors coming from other Gulf Coast states and as far away as Maine. Stansbury said that in addition to their usual marketing, the expo was featured in AAA Southern Traveler magazine as a “travel treasure.”
“So, we started getting a lot of phone calls, and, if we had more boats, we could have booked a lot more,” Stansbury said.
Bayou L’Ourse residents David and Kriss Ralston said they have attended the expo for seven years. They were at the Wings to SOAR presentation Thursday night at the Patterson Area Civic Center.
Kriss Ralston attends more events than David Ralston because of his work schedule, but their love of birds extends throughout the year as they regularly watch nests and try to spot various breeds on their daily commutes.
She keeps coming back to Eagle Expo “because I’m so interested in the birds. Right now I’m seeing eagles six days a week on the route I take from home to college and back. One day last week I saw four … and just traveling down Highway 90 I see them,” she said, adding that there is an eagle nest near the highway in the Amelia area that she watches regularly.
Kriss Ralston said she keeps coming back because “I just love hearing people’s stories and looking at people’s pictures and just to get new information. They have different speakers every year, and they all have different information … you get to appreciate that that’s a life.”
Dale Kernahan Stokes of Save Our American Raptors in Trenton, Ga., and one of the presenters Thursday night, said this is the third year she and partner John Stokes have come to the Eagle Expo. They spread environmental education with birds of prey who are unable to survive in the wild due to physical injury or who are too familiar with human interaction, she said.
“We educate with them to raise awareness about not only birds of prey in the wild, but all living creatures in the wild. Our goal is to open people’s eyes to the beauty of nature.
Dale Stokes said, “We humans think we’re removed from this planet for some reason. We’re all intertwined. We’re all feeding off this Earth, and this Earth is feeding us. Every little part of nature is part of who we are too, so by appreciating one little part of nature such as birds, plants, whatever, you’re really appreciating what you are yourself.”
Eagle Expo events
Remaining events for the Eagle Expo and more that are open to the public include presentations by:
—Darlene Eschete, who will present a slide show of eagles from past Eagle Expo events, 7:30 to 8 a.m. Saturday.
—David Hancock, presentation on the bald eagle, west coast wildlife, northwestern Native American art and culture and the Alaskan Indians; 8:10 to 9:30 a.m. Saturday.
—Nickolas Smith, discussion of the marking and satellite tracking of Louisiana bald eagles, as well as the methods he uses to capture and mark them.
—David Muth, National Wildlife Federation program director of the Mississippi River Restoration Campaign, 10:50 to 11:50 a.m.
All speakers will appear at the Holiday Inn in Morgan City. Registration for the speakers only will be at the hotel beginning at 6:30 a.m. The $40 fee includes breakfast, which will be served between 7 and 7:30 a.m.