Each year, the Wings Over the Rockies Festival gives participants an inside look at the amazing ecosystem we live in, and this year’s festival should be no different.
The 16th iteration of the festival kicks off May 7 and runs to the 13 this year, with registration for roughly 65 events and activities beginning April 9. Activities range from canoe trips with champion birders to educational hikes with conservation officers, not to mention the huge line up of fantastic keynote speakers, including author, photographer and regular Globe and Mail columnist Bruce Kirkby.
“I think the goal is to educate participants about the natural environment we live in, and the way the ecologies have to work together to be successful,” festival chair Jim Bonny said. “We’re lucky that we have a lot of excellent professionals in the valley, through a number of organizations, so a lot of the field leaders are very knowledgeable.”
Bonny first became involved with the festival about 10 years ago, at first just as a participant. He had such a great experience that he became determined to become involved, and has now been chair for about four years after filling a few other volunteer positions. He says one of his favourite things is actually planning the festival, because he gets to pick and choose which new events to include each year to keep the festival fresh.
“It’s fun planning it, and thinking what new events we can host, and what kind of theme we can have,” Bonny said. “It’s a lot of work to put together, but we have a really good team of volunteers.”
The theme for this year’s festival, “Our Backyard — The Envy of the World” is something Bonny says can be enjoyed by anyone, whether you live in the valley or are just visiting. Each year Bonny estimates about 500 people take part in the event, with over 50 per cent of those people coming from outside the valley.
“I think if it’s their first time here, and if they take part in a number of events, they’ll have a chance to really explore the Columbia Valley and learn about things from some true experts,” Bonny said. “I think anyone who goes out to some of the field events is probably going to learn something new.”
As mentioned, this year’s special guest speaker is award-winning photographer and best-selling author Bruce Kirkby. Kirkby’s travels have taken him across the globe to over 80 countries, to some of the most remote areas in the world. Kirkby is also a former CBC television host of the program “No Opportunity Wasted” where his weekly mission was to “help regular Canadians confront and overcome personal fears, and in the process accomplish the seemingly impossible.”
The now Kimberley-based author will speak at the gala banquet that takes place Saturday May 12, and will also be leading a canoe and kayak trip through the Columbia Valley Wetlands earlier in the day. Almost all the events do have an upper limit on participants, so those looking to attend are encouraged to sign up at the earliest possible date. For the full schedule, and more details on how to register, visit wingsovertherockies.org.