Alton-Audubon Eagle Festival
The temperature has dropped and so have the leaves. Bird watchers near and far know just what that means for the Meeting of the Great Rivers… eagle season!
In previous years hundreds of American Bald Eagles have returned along the Meeting of the Great Rivers National Scenic Byway between Alton and Grafton in December through February to reclaim their nests.
In celebration of this winter migration, the Alton Regional Convention and Visitor Center along with the Audubon Center at Riverlands will kick off this highly anticipated eagle watching season with the Alton-Audubon Eagle Ice Festival on Sat., Jan. 7 with a day filled with fun for family and friends.
The free festival will feature a live eagle meet and greet at the Alton Visitor Center, 200 Piasa St., Alton, which gives visitors an up-close and personal experience like no other. Live bird displays will be hosted every Saturday in January at the Alton Visitor Center thanks to World Bird Sanctuary from Valley Park, MO and Treehouse Wildlife Center from Dow, IL.
Brian Bissonnette, World Bird Sanctuary Executive Director points out that live displays can be very educational.
“A lot of people aren’t aware of the danger that the eagles were in or the dangers that they still face today,” Bissonnette says. “Right now, the two leading issues for the bald eagle are manmade: lead poisoning and winter turbines.”
Visitors can learn more about the history of American Bald Eagles, the dangers they face and general information about the bird of prey from a professional handler at both of these events.
And what’s a festival without games? The Eagle Festival will be just as much fun as it will be educational. An ice cube crush, ice putt-putt golf sponsored by Liberty Bank and other games will be available courtesy of Argosy Casino in Alton. The games will offer prizes ranging from gift certificates to special coupon deals from businesses throughout the region.
The weather won’t be the only cool feature of the fest when David Van Camp, owner of IceVisions in St. Louis, MO showcases his artistic ice creations. Van Camp and his assistant ice carvers will be creating a live sculpture on the spot.
“We’ll have three carvings of eagles, all different,” Van Camp says. “For the live sculpting, we’ll spend about three hours carving the ice block.”
The Alton-Audubon Eagle Ice Festival will be on Saturday, Jan. 7 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the parking lots behind the Alton Visitor Center and New Frontiers Home Furnishings.
The eagle festivities don’t end with the festival! Take a 45-minute shuttle sponsored by Phillips 66 to sites along the Mississippi River to spot some eagles. Pick-up will be at the Audubon Center Sat., Jan. 7 with stops scheduled for Maple Island, Heron Pond, Ellis Island and the Alton Visitor Center, returning to the Audubon Center for drop-off. The guide onboard the shuttle will provide tips on how to eagle watch this season.
Shuttles are also available Jan. 14, 21 and 28 and these will pick up and drop off at the Alton Visitor Center. Tickets are $5 per person. To make reservations, click here.
The Eagle Festival is sponsored in part by Alton Memorial Hospital, Liberty Bank and Phillips 66.
For more information on the Festival, shuttle schedules or to receive a free Eagle Watcher’s Guide, contact the Alton Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau at (800) 258-6645.