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‘Ding’ Days celebrates 20 years of conservation

By Staff | Oct 19, 2009

In celebration of the 20th anniversary of “Ding” Darling Days, the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge has added a special day devoted to the legacy of conservation art started by refuge namesake, Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist and original Duck Stamp artist, Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling.
Although Darling earned his living as an editorial cartoonist, which were published in more than 150 newspapers across the country, his passion was teaching the wise use of the world’s natural resources. Skilled in public speaking, articulate in writing, the two-time Pulitzer Prize winner devoted his special talents to conservation education and to developing programs and institutions which would benefit wildlife. The National Wildlife Federation, the Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit Program and the Federal Duck Stamp Program all owe their early existence to Darling’s forceful leadership and conservation ethic.
Darling also designed the Blue Goose logo, the national symbol of the refuge system. Rachel Carson, author of “Silent Spring,” scientist and chief editor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from 1932 through 1952, wrote of the emblem, “Wherever you meet this sign, respect it. It means that the land behind the sign has been dedicated by the American people to preserving, for themselves and their children, as much of our native wildlife as can be retained along with our modern civilization.”
According to The J.N. “Ding” Darling Foundation, the Norwood, Michigan native created his superb wildlife drawings as a diversion from the intensity of his profession. In these drawings, he was able to express his appreciation of nature in a medium far different from his editorial cartooning. Although he has been recognized as perhaps the most masterful of artists at depicting birds in flight, he did not sell his etchings. Only those that met his demanding standards were given to friends and family. These few existing etchings are now avidly sought by collectors for their excellence and their rarity.
Conservation Through Art Day will bring the weeklong “Ding” Days 2009 to a close at the refuge on Saturday, Oct. 24 from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. The presentation and stamp signing by the current Federal Duck Stamp Artist will be moved from Family Fun Day to the art day event this year. The Federal Junior Duck Stamp Artist and Florida Junior Duck Stamp contest winner will also join him.
Family Fun Day on Sunday kicked off the week’s festivities. Admission to Wildlife Drive is free to everyone on Oct. 24, and free to hikers and bikers on Oct. 23.
The days between Family Fun Day and Conservation Through Art Day are filled with free biking and birding tours and discounted kayaking and boat excursions through Tarpon Bay Explorers, the refuge’s recreation concession.
“‘Ding’ Days is part of National Wildlife Refuge week when refuges around the country encourage people to get outdoors and experience their refuges,” said Toni Westland, “Ding” Days committee co-chair.
“Ding” Darling Days 2009 sponsors include Doc Ford’s Sanibel Rum Bar & Grille, Times of the Islands, ‘Tween Waters Inn, Bailey’s General Store, Caloosa Tent & Rental, Edison National Bank, Jerry’s Foods of Sanibel, John Grey Painting, Ocean’s Reach, Royal Shell Vacations, Sanibel Captiva Community Bank, Sanibel Captiva Trust Co., Shop On Sanibel, a division of R.L.R. Investments L.L.C., Jim and Patty Sprankle, The Timbers Restaurant & Fish Market and West Wind Inn.
Additional sponsors include Billy’s Rentals and Billy’s Bikes Blind Pass Condominium Vacation Rentals, In-Home Therapy of Sanibel/Island Therapy Center, Lily & Company, Rotary Club of Sanibel-Captiva, Sanibel-Captiva Kiwanis Club, Suncatcher’s Dream, The Clem Werner Family, Barefoot Charley’s Painting, Casa Ybel Resort, Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program (CHNEP), Dan Hahn Custom Builders, Chip and Sheryl Lesch, Lighthouse Cafe, Over Easy Cafe, Sanibel Arms West, Wendy and George Schnapp, Sotheby’s International Realty, Winston and Barbara Spurgeon, She Sells Sea Shells, Traders Store & Cafe and Twilight Cafe.
For more information about “Ding” Darling Days, log on to www.dingdarlingdays.com.