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Thousands attend Burrowing Owl Festival

By Staff | Feb 27, 2018

For Cape Coral residents, it was an opportunity to learn about the city’s official bird, and a lot of other animals as well.

Thousands of people turned out at Rotary Park on Saturday as the Friends of Cape Coral Wildlife hosted the 16th annual Burrowing Owl Festival, which celebrates the threatened species the group has taken a heightened level of concern with.

Pascha Donaldson, president of Friends of Cape Coral Wildlife, said the event celebrates the start of nesting season for the owls, which goes from February to July.

“The first time we did this there were about 300 people. Now we expect 3,000. We have more people here, we’re better organized, have a better venue, more activities, so every year it grows,” Donaldson said. “We invite people from 2 to 82 to learn about our environment.”

Although the event officially started at 10 a.m., there was a lot to do even hours before the start.

There was a photographers bus tour as early as 7:30 p.m.. There was also a wildlife art contest featuring some of the top work from kids of all ages, and Paige the Eagle of Maitland Audubon appeared as a symbol to our country during the National Anthem.

People got to see the Florida butterflies, take a bus tour of owl burrows, which were available all day, and learn about southwest Florida reptiles and amphibians.

Numerous vendors were there, from animal rescues to groups devoted to certain animals, to artists whose theme was owls and other species.

Nick Vidakovic made burrowing owls made of wood for the occasion and was even creating more artwork out of high-quality plywood.

“I made the burrowing owls just for this occasion. I go to shows like this and make about one panel a week. They can go from $15 to $1,500,” Vidakovic said. “The owls are $25.”

The kids made artwork as well. Olga Dundas’ son, Alexander, 10, who attends Christa McAuliffe Elementary School, drew an award-winning burrowing owl carrying a coffee mug that read “I Love Bugs and Rodents.”

“It’s supposed to be a joke. Owls are nocturnal, and it looks like this one didn’t get enough sleep,” he said.

Cherie and Danny Shell came from the Carolinas and said they were enamored by the owls.

“We see them all over the roadways and we catch them in the morning,” Cherie said. “We’re really enjoying this.”

“It’s cool because we talk to friends about it who don’t live here and they say they have never heard of them,” Danny said. “We sent them pictures and they’re like ‘Really?'”

Among those who came was Mayor Joe Coviello, who has seen the growth of the festival from the close proximity of his home and appreciates the work for those who protects animals.

“Friends of Wildlife is a great group supporting the wildlife features of the city, and the Burrowing Owl is one of the top amenities the city has,” Coviello said. “Development needs to be done, but we need to realize the impact it has on wildlife.”