The International Festival of Owls in Houston will bring the community together for another year March 6-8.
Karla Bloem, executive director of the International Owl Center, said it’s an important festival for Houston “because it’s kind of gotten way out of hand.”
She said the annual event originally started as a hatch day party but has turned into an international event that attracts about 2,000 people each year from every corner of the United States and some from outside of the country.
“That’s kind of a big deal for a town with a population just under 1,000,” Bloem said.
Bloem said the concept of the festival was started in 2003 and the owl center was an outgrowth of it.
Each year, the community comes together to handle the large amount of visitors. Organizations — including the Lutheran Church, the Boy Scouts and a garden club — help create and host opportunities during the festival.
Additionally, about 100 volunteers contribute to the festival.
“It’s amazing,” Bloem said.
She said the support and help from locals has helped prove Houston is the best location for the festival, instead of a large city.
The community has shown a love for owls, even outside of the center. Bloem said the Houston Arts Resource Council hosts a Parade of Owls Art Tour. There are also 12 owl statues located around the town.
Additionally, a few local businesses have decorated their facilities with owl décor.
“You wouldn’t get that someplace else. So it’s really fun to have the better part of the whole community on the bandwagon,” Bloem said.
This year’s festival is set to be packed full of a variety of events suitable for all ages.
People from all over the world, who are honored in the World Owl Hall of Fame, will speak to crowds about their passions throughout the weekend.
The Hall of Fame has been a part of the festival for more than a decade.
“I realized there were people who have literally dedicated their entire life to doing good things for owls, and making the world a better place,” Bloem said. “So I thought it would be great if we could actually give them recognition because most of these people don’t get much recognition for what they do. And there’s some pretty amazing stories to tell.”
The center receives nominations each year. People from a variety of countries are then able to judge who will be selected as winners of different categories.
This year’s winners include Norman Smith of Massachusetts for the Champion of Owls Award; Dr. Frederick Gehlbach of Texas for a Special Achievement Award; Fred Koning of The Netherlands for a Special Achievement Award; and Yadav Ghimirey of Nepal for a Special Achievement Award.
The stories of these winners, including why they were chosen, are available on the International Festival of Owls website.
Children’s talents will also be embraced again this year.
The Children’s International Owl Art Contest originally began as a local art contest, but now is an extremely competitive international contest, Bloem said.
Last year, 4,444 entries from 37 countries were submitted.
New limits were set so the entries weren’t as overwhelming for festival organizers. As a result, this year about 2,500 entries were received from 42 countries.
Contest winners, along with pieces chosen by the staff, will be on display during the festival, including at the high school.
Some of these artworks will be able to be purchased for $20 each.
Bloem said a new addition this year is 16 of the pieces will be turned into street banners that will include the country, name and age of the child who created the artwork. These banners will be located around Houston for years to come.
Additionally, the Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis will have an exhibit open in conjunction will the festival that will feature some of the submitted art pieces from Russian children. The exhibit will also have mounted owl specimens of species found in both Russia and Minnesota.
For more information about the festival and a full list of events, including live owl programs, owl nest box building, pellet dissections, kids activities and more, visit www.festivalofowls.com.
Multiple events require early online registration, some with a March 1 deadline for a lower entry fee.
Locations for the events include Houston High School and the International Owl Center, along with other local locations.
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