The first Hessel Snowy Owl Festival runs from February 2 to 4
Sault Ste. MARIE – Snowy owls can be difficult to spot, but your chances are better than average in the Eastern Upper Peninsula.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources describes the area as one of the best areas for viewing winter owls in the state. In fact, last year, Rudyard was recognized as the state’s Snowy Owl Capital.
more: Rudyard is now the Snowy Owl Capital of Michigan
To celebrate the Snowy Owl, Hessel School will host its first annual Snowy Owl Festival throughout the month of February.
The weekend of February 2-4 kicks off a month-long fun with a variety of activities and events, including guided birdwatching tours, educational workshops, live owl displays, art classes and more.
The area is known for its ecological heritage, and was once a favorite haunt of the famous conservationist Aldo Leopold. The Aldo Leopold Festival is held during the summer, and the Hessel School wanted to offer a similar event to help educate people about animals that are active in the winter.
“There weren’t any winter birding activities that we could take advantage of, so we created one of our own,” said program director Christy Beyer. “Since Rudyard is actually the snowy owl capital of Michigan, and we see quite a few of them in the Pickford area, we decided to hold a snowy owl festival.”
The festival was originally planned to be fairly small, but received so much local support and interest from outside the region that organizers were forced to expand it before it could begin.
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Other activities throughout the weekend include classes on bird photography and a hands-on workshop teaching people how to build owl nesting boxes.
Although there is no cost to enter the event, there are tickets at varying prices for individual activities, as well as a limited number of spaces for each event.
Tickets for the February 2 and 3 bird watching tours have already sold out, but tickets for the How, Where and When for Winter Birds presentation and other events are still available at hesselschoolhouse.org.
According to Baer, festival organizers hope to turn this event into an annual event that can grow and be celebrated every year. They have received so much support that some events, including bird tours, have been expanded to include more people. There are waiting lists for some activities if too many people sign up for them.
“It has attracted people from all over the state of Michigan, Ohio and Indiana. It has grown much larger than we ever thought it would in our first year,” Baer said.
Some local bars will be offering night owl drink specials during the festival.
At the end of the weekend, some festival activities will continue throughout February in the school building.
— Contact Brendan Wiesner: BWiesner@Sooeveningnews.com
This article originally appeared on The Sault News: Hessel House School is running its first Snowy Owl Festival from February 2-4