Bye-bye birdies, for now at least

December 05, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

When local dairy farmer Jim Kuhn proposed his idea in the mid-1990s to have a bird festival in the Imperial Valley, he wanted the event to be staged annually.

For five years that was the case.

From 1997 through 2001 the Salton Sea International Bird Festival was conducted each February, attracting as many as a 1,000 people from outside the Valley.

That will not be the case in 2002. What was to be the sixth annual bird festival has been canceled.

Kuhn said this morning the committee that has put on the event made the decision in September that it would not be possible to have the festival in 2002.

Kuhn said while there was money to make the event happen, there were not enough volunteers to sustain the festival.

"Local participation was not adequate," Kuhn said, adding, "I am disappointed. I would like to see that resource continue to be tapped."


Still, Kuhn said that does not mean the bird festival has been canceled permanently.

"We're going to use this year as a building year," Kuhn said. "We will use this year to seek out what the destiny of the bird festival really is."

Kuhn said if the event is to continue, it is going to take the efforts of paid staff. He said that could mean hiring an executive director to manage the festival or looking to support of local agencies such as chambers of commerce.

"It needs paid leadership," he said.

He said the festival can no longer run solely on the volunteer efforts of a few locals.

He said there have been volunteers who have returned each year to run the event but the volunteers do not have the same amount of time to commit to the event.

Kuhn said that meant more volunteers were needed but they weren't available for the 2002 festival.

One reason for declining volunteerism, Kuhn said, is some volunteers were disappointed that there was little attendance by locals at festival events.

He said organizers had hoped to attract local people to the festival, selling it as a family event rather than a specialty event solely for bird watchers.

Promoting tourism was a key component of the festival that succeeded, Kuhn said, adding people from across the nation and from other countries were attracted to the Valley for the festival.

He said the framework for the festival is in place and there are those who know how to run the festival — a fact he said will make it possible to bring the festival to reality again.

>> Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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