The 18th annual Wings Over Water birding festival, which was supposed to take place from Friday, March 20 through Sunday, March 22, has been canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The decision was made more than a week ago, after authorities began recommending social distancing and other measures to contain the spread of the new virus.
“We were sort of monitoring this for a while,” said Debbie Harger, one of the event’s organizers. “As things were progressing, we needed to consider the fact that a lot of our demographic is over 60, we were holding our event in school venues and we were traveling across the border for one of our events on a charter bus.”
After Whatcom County executive Satpal Sidhu declared a public health emergency to address the spread of the virus locally, the birding festival’s organizers decided to take swift action. “When the county executive said not to be in crowds of 50 or more, that was the final reason we made our decision,” Harger said. “Everyone on our committee and board agreed that we should cancel. We had to consider our volunteers.”
Harger said that the Wings Over Water festival will return in 2021, bigger and better than ever. “We are looking forward to a great festival in 2021 and we’re focused on that,” Harger said. “I have spoken with our sponsors, volunteers and speakers and everyone is on board for next year. It was hard to pull the plug but now we don’t have to reinvent the wheel for next year.”
Despite the cancelation of this year’s festival, which attracts bird lovers to Blaine from all over the world, Harger encouraged people to still go bird-watching during the coronavirus outbreak. The Blaine area is a prime location for viewing Pacific Northwest birds, she said.
“More people are getting outside because they can maintain social distancing,” she said. “Birding is a great way to do that.”