RADFORD – Locals gathered under a cloudy sky Saturday, March 23, from noon to 3 p.m. for the 6th annual Radford Roosting Festival.
The festival had a variety of stations that followed the theme of “Celebration of Flight.” Children could build and color their own kites out of trash bags, like Ginny Smith, and her children.
“We got a flier sent home from school, and so we thought we’d just stop by. They had the Easter egg hunt downtown and so we decided to come, and it was really fun,” Smith said. “They really loved the birds, they really liked the owl especially because they could pet it.”
The festival serves to educate people about the area’s over 200 different types of local birds, according to Deb Cooney, Tourism Director for the City of Radford.
“There’s a little something for everybody,” Cooney said. “People seem pretty happy.”
Lee Chichester with the Virginia Falconers’ Association and Dr. Kerri Cooper-Bailey with Furr, Feathers & Scales held a question and answer session with Pumpkin the barn owl, Chade the Red Tail Hawk and CJ the Hybrid Falcon.
Visitors were able to pet Pumpkin and the owl fascinated many children and adults alike.
“This guy came from a barn that was up in the Shenandoah Valley, so I’ve had him since he was seven days,” Copper-Bailey said. “He’s been working with me and kids since before he could fly.”
Copper-Bailey said Barn Owls live until their teens in captivity, but even less in the wild because they are often the prey of other animals. Barn owls are declining in numbers. In 2009, there were 144 breeding pairs, but in 2011, there were only three in Montgomery County, according to Copper-Bailey
“These guys are seriously, seriously in trouble,” Copper-Bailey said. “So this might be the last time you get to see one of these guys. Or at least in this area.”
Local bird expert Clyde Kessler with the touring company Radbird hosted two bird walks at 1 and 2 p.m.
Donald Jacobs with the Got Wind? Kite Club held kite demonstrations along with question and answer sessions for people interested in kite flying. Jacobs allowed anyone who was interested to fly one of his Glider Kites.
The festival got its start when Dr. Bob Sheehy, a Radford University biology professor who rehabs injured vultures, gathered together with a few friends to teach the community about vultures. After a few years, Sheehy spoke with the Visitor’s Center about helping to take over and expand his teachings into an event. Now the annual festival celebrates all the area’s birds, not just vultures.
Cooney said there are plans in the works for next year’s Roosting Festival, but right now she’s working on planning the next festival for April 14.
“The next one is a Native American Festival, and we do that because Bisset Park was a Native American site,” Cooney said. “It’s awesome. We have the drums, which are actually from Pulaski this year, the Red Fire Singers, and the dancers.”