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Weather puts damper on Owl Fest but more than 1,200 still turn out

By Staff | Feb 27, 2010

Event staff packed up the Eighth Annual Burrowing Owl Festival earlier than expected Saturday after a chilling downpour hit Rotary Park.
The festival, hosted by the Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife and designed to educate families about the city’s official bird and other wildlife, was scheduled for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., but the poor weather forced it to come to an end around 1 p.m.
Michael Orchin, president of the Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife, said this was the first rain-out the festival has experienced in eight years.
“The rain didn’t help us out,” he said. “It helped mother nature but it
didn’t help us.”
Normally the festival draws in 3,000 Southwest Florida residents wanting to see the numerous exhibits and attractions, yet most of the crowd left shortly after noon. Orchin estimated that between 1,200 and 1,300 people still attended the festival in the morning.
“It was doing pretty good, but attendance was down because everyone thought it was going to rain,” he said.
There was no Plan B for the event, Orchin said, so local residents will have to wait for the next Burrowing Owl Festival in 2011. Even though he wishes it was a two-day event, the Friends of Wildlife don’t have enough volunteers to expand the festival to an entire weekend.
Approximately 120 people volunteer for the wildlife organization, but only 40 are capable of overseeing thefestival or setting up the exhibits. Because Friends of Wildlife is entirely volunteer-based, events like the festival help raise money for the building and maintenance of owl burrows throughout Cape Coral.
B. Keith Councell, a professional bee remover with Councell Farms in Fort Myers, was one of the vendors whogot rained out Saturday, but who kept his table set up longer.
“It was cold weather,” he said. “But it’s beautiful now.”
Councell sold jars of pure, local honey, as well as wax candles, and he displayed a bee observation hive to show people what happens inside a bee colony. The hive he showed on Saturday was cut from the wall of a
person’s home.
“It let’s them get up close and people see what goes on inside a colony,” he said.
After the crowds left early Councell likely didn’t sell as much honey as he expected, but he didn’t mind.
“I probably sold less, but we mostly came out to educate,” he said.
The event may have closed early, but Orchin said the highlight of this year’s Burrowing Owl Festival was the opening of the permanent butterfly tent at Rotary Park. Home Depot donated the building supplies and volunteers from the Friends of Wildlife built a tent that will house butterflies and native plants all year round.
Orchin explained that the tent will be open the same hours as the park.
Volunteers will also periodically work in the tent to weed or plant throughout the year.
“It will be self-sufficient and an ongoing population of butterflies,” he said.
One of the species of native butterflies expected to grow in the tent is the Zebra Longwing, the state’s official butterfly. Orchin said he used to see this species everywhere until Hurricane Charley hit in 2004 and decimated the local population.
The rain not only forced thousands of people to stay in their homes on Saturday, but most of the burrowing owls in Cape Coral also hid in their holes. Although, Orchin said that both of the burrowing owl bus tours, scheduled at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., were able to run.
And none of the presentations were affected because they were inside the park’s environmental center.