By Kristi Kates
When I was younger, I grew up birding around Northern Michigan and
the Whitefish Point area with my father, Jim Porter, explains concert
producer Sam Porter. The love for nature and wildlife that grew out
of that experience is my personal inspiration for this event.
This event is in reference to the upcoming Festival of Birds, set to
kick off on Friday, May 21 at Traverse Citys City Opera House. The
fest will bring together local nature lovers, artists, and musicians,
with Porterhouse Productions at the helm, to help showcase the beauty
and mystery of Michigan birds to a large audience.
I started networking with regional bird lovers to discuss the idea of
creating an event that connects youth and community to the mystery of
different species of birds, Porter says. We wanted to organize a
festival and get creative with music, local birding artists,
storytelling, education, and bringing in local nonprofit partners to
make this a regional, multi-day event.
BIRDS MEET MUSIC
Live musical performances by the likes of Mike Moran and the
appropriately-named Breathe Owl Breathe will be accompanied by live
raptor presentations at the inaugural event. The renowned non-profit
sanctuary Wings of Wonder - one of only a handful of sanctuaries in
Michigan dedicated to the rehabilitation and release of injured and/or
orphaned raptors (birds) - will be bringing birds out at the
beginnings of several songs in order to tell their stories.
Derek Bailey, Chairman of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and
Chippewa Indians, will also make a special introduction with a redtail
hawk during the event, accompanied by Medicine Lodge singers and
drummers. The bands and birds on the same stage will surely make for a
beautiful - if perhaps humorously unpredictable - feature of the
In conversation with Wings of Wonder founder Rebecca Lessard, I
thought of the idea to have musicians and live birds share the stage,
Porter explains, there is certainly an element of spontaneity and
whimsy to it - with live birds, nothing is ever a guarantee! But there
will be trained professionals there to manage the animals. It will be
a truly unique experience, one I think that will be very inspiring and
powerful for the audience. Rebecca says Droolin the Turkey Vulture is
a total ham, and we should see six feet of wingspan at some point from
his perch. He is just one of several different types of birds that
will share the stage that night.
WATCH THE BIRDIE...
In addition to the performances, the Friday event will feature
educational wildlife and nature booths. The fest will continue on
Saturday at a variety of locales and events, including bird walks,
bird-banding workshops, a Boardman River Nature Center plant sale, and
tours of both Wings of Wonder and Saving Birds Thru Habitat.
Meanwhile the State Theatre will present the hit documentary film
Winged Migration on Monday, May 17 at 6 p.m. in honor of the
festival and its blend of nature and the arts.
Porter is looking forward to the first year of the event, and how
it will set the stage positively for the continuation of the Festival
of Birds in following years.
I am looking forward to a collaborative, joyful gathering to enjoy
birds, live music and the spirit of community, Porter says. As a
first-year event, were starting out simple to get people engaged,
then hopefully will build on that energy to create a large-scale
festival in 2011. Northern Michigan is such a beautiful nature
community - we want to honor that and give people of all ages a chance
to come out and celebrate it.
Doors to the City Opera House event open at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, May
21, with performances starting at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 for
general admission or $5 for youth and are available for purchase at
the City Opera House or online at
ww.cityoperahouse.org. Additional events will take place off-site on
May 22; a complete schedule of events will be available online at