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DDWS to celebrate refuge’s 75th with gala drive-in theater event

By REFUGE / DDWS - | Sep 30, 2020

PHOTO PROVIDED Joe Wiegand, with the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge's Blue Goose mascot, will reprise his persona of Teddy Roosevelt to regale guests at the daytime celebration and evening gala.

In 1945, out of fear for the wildlife and wetlands that claimed most of Sanibel, Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling succeeded in petitioning for the creation of the Sanibel National Wildlife Refuge.

Seventy-five years later, the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge — which adopted its creator’s name in 1967 following his death — celebrates its rich history and legacy on Dec. 1. The “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge is helping to support a daytime celebration and will host an evening gala to commemorate the anniversary.

The daytime celebration, in concert with “Ding” Darling Day, will be free and open to the public. It will combine a day of safe family fun, live music and special guests, while following CDC guidelines. Visit dingdarlingdays.com for the schedule of activities.

The day’s festivities then will culminate with a ticketed evening event. The 75th Anniversary Gala will harken back to the 1940s with a drive-in theater theme and visits from “Theodore Roosevelt” reprisor Joe Wiegand. It will take place in the parking lot across from The Community House on Sanibel. Guests will enjoy live music and a program projected onto a drive-in style screen with audio broadcast to their cars. “Car hops” wearing masks and other protective gear will deliver food and drinks to them.

“Dec. 1 will be a once-in-a-lifetime celebration to remember and an occasion to look forward with optimism to the refuge’s future,” DDWS Executive Director Birgie Miller said.

Tickets to the gala will go on sale the end of October. Space is limited to 70 vehicles, but there is no limit as to how many people can occupy each vehicle. For more information, visit ding75.org.

To become a sponsor, contact Development Officer April Boehnen at aprilb@dingdarlingsociety.org or 239-472-1100 ext. 4.