Social distancing on bird walk. Photo by Pat Morrow

Social distancing on bird walk. Photo by Pat Morrow

Wings Over The Rockies is back

The most diverse wildlife festival in North America set for May 10-16

The most diverse wildlife festival in North America is back for its 24th incarnation, having missed last year due the the pandemic.

Wings Over the Rockies, launched in 1997, resumes this year up throughout the Columbia Valley, May 10-16. The weeklong festival brings visitors out into nature, and through the community efforts of volunteers, local businesses, naturalists, conservancy groups and special guests, provides activities and presentations that educate and instill an appreciation of nature in all who take part.

Centered around Invermere, the festival covers 100 linear kilometres up the Columbia Valley.

“We’re very dispersed,” said Festival Chairman Ross MacDonald. “It’s an à la carte festival, booked on an individual basis, and spread out over the seven days.”

MacDonald said the festival “covers the gamut of our relationship with wildlife. But it’s also more than that.”

The festival’s theme this year is “Inspired by Nature,” that “recognizes the vital role that the outdoors plays in our physical and mental well-being, but also that humans have a responsibility to protect these special natural places.”

The undercurrent purpose of the festival is to help people engage with the environment and the wildlife who make it their home, and help them appreciate it. This in turn, will lead to greater conservation of those environments.

“We are attracted these amazing viewscapes.” MacDonald said. “But we need to share. People protect what they appreciate, and learn to tread softly.”

The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic led to the cancellation — the first ever — of Wings Over The Rockies. But the festival is back, after consultation with Worksafe BC and Interior Health, and keeping in mind provincial health orders.

Organizers have developed online presentations and outdoor events that are active and that follow well established COVID-19 prevention practices (social distancing, mask wearing where necessary, hand sanitizing, etc).

“What we’ve done is cancelled all our normal indoor events,” MacDonald said. “All our normal presentations are now online. We’ve cancelled anything that would smack of a gathering … for outdoor events [like a guided walk], we’ve reduced numbers so we can maintain physical distancing.

“We are providing our volunteer leaders with portable amplifiers — a microphone and battery powered speaker — so everyone can hear.

“We pride ourselves on our expert leaders.”

Wings Over the Rockies is a community effort, with many community partner businesses and volunteers pitching in to hold the festival. See more at https://www.wingsovertherockies.org/all-events/.

“We have a number of affiliates — some are commercial operators that are providing activities for us. For example, Columbia River Paddle does paddle events; the Fairmont Resort has a number of outdoor events … There are a few activities focused on health. But predominantly, we have over 100 guided activities. We also have a few new activities that we’ve never done before.”

Some of the featured events include: outdoor guided interpretive walks and paddles stretching from Wasa to Parsons; Health and well-being activities; Online presentations (both live and pre-recorded); A drive-in Movie featuring “Penguin Summer” by Wings Keynote Alex Taylor and the award-winning film “Bird of Prey;”; Online auction, open to bidders from across Canada – filled with adventure experiences; A photography contest; A birdhouse building contest; and more.

Complete information on activites, and the festival’s Covid-safe plan, can be found at the Festival’s website, https://www.wingsovertherockies.org/all-events/