Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Yakutat Tern Festival...

An Event Rooted in Community on the Tongass National Forest
Winning entry in last year's logo contest,
submitted by a local high school student
 A few great things about TERNS:
  • Arctic Terns can migrate 44,000 miles in one year, easily the record for any animal.
  • 9,500 Aleutian Terns--half of the worldwide population--breed along the Alaskan coast.
  • They bring together the Community of Yakutat for a yearly celebration.
Arctic tern in Yakutat

From May 31 to June 3, Yakutat hosted the Tern Festival, an event that united the Forest Service with numerous partners--Yak-Tat Kwaan, the Park Service, and the Yakutat Chamber of Commerce among them. This year's celebration was the second annual festival the community held in recognition of these extremely beautiful and fascinating birds, which nest in mixed colonies along the Situk River flats.
Kids learn by touching at the Raptor Center display
Particpants converged on Yakutat from points in Alaska that included Juneau, Anchorage, and Craig, as well as Arizona, Washington, California, and myriad other states. Once there, birding enthusiasts new and veteran enjoyed an art show featuring locally made or locally inspired works, attended fascinating talks on raptors and bird identification, took part in bird banding, and even participated in a genetic history of the Tlingit and Haida communities of the Tongass. Numerous field trips by foot, van, kayak, and motorboat produced a tremendous bird list that included cedar waxwing (a first in Yakutat), Wilson's warbler, fox sparrow, black oystercatcher, pigeon guillemot, and of course, Arctic and Aleutian terns.

Mt. St. Elias Dancers
One of the absolute highlights of the festival was the salmon banquet that featured an incredible, standing-room-only performance by the Mt. St. Elias Dancers. Through song, dance, stories, and regalia, this group conveyed what is utterly unique about Yakutat and the rich cultural traditions that exist there.

All taken, the Tern Festival not only united Yakutat locals but also drew in visitors who were readily embraced by this strong coastal Alaskan community.

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