A LITTLE HISTORY OF THE FESTIVAL
Ospreys are so plentiful in Colonial Beach, they tended to be taken for granted by local residents. Then some bird lovers collaborated with Downtown Colonial Beach Inc. to showcase the town’s signature bird by inaugurating an Osprey Festival in their honor the weekend April 12 – 14, 2019. That first year, the festival received very favorable reviews and we began planning the next one when Covid-19 hit. Undaunted we mounted a “Virtual Osprey Festival” for 2020 and 2021. These “virtual” festivals recruited osprey watchers to keep track of the nests, generated gorgeous and fascinating osprey photography, and pave the way for a return to the live festival coming up April 9, 2022.
The festival’s core focus was on sharing in-depth information on the ospreys and introducing people to the fascinating pastime of bird watching. Bird experts delivered presentations at the Potomac River Fisheries Commission, Audubon Chapter guides led bird walks, and an osprey expert spoke about the ospreys on a trolley tour around town to see the nests. The town’s museum curator recounted the history of Colonial Beach. Visitors also had the chance to view the nests by taking a golf cart ride around the town’s “Point” with community hosts who provided their own personal take on the ospreys and town history. There was also an osprey story-hour for the children and bird-related arts and crafts.
As a harbinger of spring, the ospreys’ March arrival lifts spirits. As the ospreys sailed in to start building their nests, townspeople and visitors alike kicked up their heels that first year with entertainment and other ways to enjoy themselves. Restaurants featured Featherweight, Early Bird and Osprey dining specials. Pubs and clubs held “Cock-tail” Hours. Music filled the air at multiple venues and a “Grand Ole O’spry Concert” was inaugurated.
The monthly second Friday Art Walk featured bird-themed art and a juried show of bird art was held at the Artists’ Alliance, the town’s main art gallery. Local retailers, the Colonial Beach Museum and art galleries participated in a “Find the Bird” scavenger hunt with prizes of a night at the art deco style period Riverview Inn and dinner at Denson’s, the Northern Neck’s premier oyster restaurant.
The festival partnered with nearby state parks to “make it a weekend” of bird watching activities. An eagle tour was held at Caledon State Park, and Westmoreland State Park provided a checklist for a scavenger hunt to identify birds. Visitors were also directed to the three nearby presidential birthplaces – George Washington’s, James Monroe’s and James Madison’s—as well as to the ancestral home of the Lee family, all of which are highly regarded bird watching locations.
Although the festival per se is officially Saturday, April 9, the many other ways to enjoy birdwatching and historic sites are still available for visitors who make it a weekend again this year. Monroe’s Birthplace right outside of Colonial Beach is opening especially for the festival, Sunday, April 10th from 1 – 4 pm with docents sharing the history of Monroe’s family at the Visitor’s Center and the recently restored Monroe homestead. Just a hop, skip and a jump away is the Monroe Bay Winery where visitors can precede their visit to the birthplace or top it off with a wine tasting that day.
Many dedicated people have been involved with mounting the first Osprey Festival in 2019, then the two Virtual festivals in 2020 and 2021, and now our return to a live festival in 2022. Our first Osprey Festival in 2019, and our second festival mounted virtually, we dedicated to the memory of artist and gallery owner Shirl Rush, whose last act before she died the Monday after the 2019 festival was to make sure that her gallery was open that weekend and featuring osprey and wildlife art.
Artist and graphic designer Barbara Brennan and her son Ethan of B2 Design produced our beautiful vintage poster and tickets advertising the festival along with the take away souvenir program which was also a guide to bird watching on the Northern Neck. We are incalculably grateful to our two regional Osprey experts and devotees Mike Callahan and Pam Narney for without their guidance, enthusiasm and expertise the Osprey Festivals would never have gotten off the ground. They also helped us continue the festivals on a virtual basis for the last two years. Nor would those have been possible without the help of our brilliant website designer Deb Newman of Petite Taway Website Design. Much of the readability of the text on the virtual site (and this one) can be attributed to the lyrical writing of former DCB Board member Dennis Ryan.
On the second year of the virtual festival, events planner, publicist, and hot blues singer Sally Adam provided much of the coordination and recruited a sizeable flock of Osprey Watchers to report and photograph what was happening in the nests. One of those, Joanie Millward, became the unstoppable force behind this year’s return to a live festival and to attracting world osprey specialist Dr. Alan Poole to deliver an exclusive virtual presentation strictly for this festival. Along the way, more and more osprey, birding, nature, and wildlife enthusiasts are joining in the Colonial Beach effort to celebrate and help conserve this beautiful indicator of our planet’s well-being.