Keokuk’s Bald Eagle Appreciation Days brings in hundreds of Tri-State residents

Published: Jan. 21, 2023 at 4:33 PM CST
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KEOKUK (WGEM) - Saturday marked the 39th annual Bald Eagle Appreciation Days.

Keokuk Area Convention and Tourism Bureau Executive Director Kirk Brandenberger said the event stems from a time where the American bald eagle was put on the endangered species list, and wanted to make a community effort towards wildlife preservation.

Not only does it promote wildlife preservation and pay respects to the areas Native American history, but he said it also kicks off the 2023 tourism season.

Every year he expects between 1,500 and 2,000 people at the event.

“It’s by far our biggest winter time draw,” Brandenberger said. “It’s good to have this during this time of year, the hotels like it and the restaurants like it.”

In addition to live Native American music, attendees could see various wildlife ranging from the American bald eagle, a harpy eagle and a wide array of insects.

World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist Cheryl Circo said it’s important to have these events to educate the community on how they can help keep wildlife alive.

She said January and February are the busiest times of the year for the sanctuary to bring their “flying friends” out on the road for all to see.

“The more we share about these birds, it teaches people to care,” Circo said. “Getting that up-close and personal look at a bald eagle instead of just seeing it way off in the distance just helps make that connection of birds to people so that we can show people how to do more to keep in our environment.”

Despite several communities along the Mississippi River holding similar events annually, Brandenberger said the Keokuk-based event has always brought in large winter-crowds.

Margo Swena is one person whose attended the event for years.

This year, she decided to become a part of Bald Eagle Appreciation Days by creating artwork of the Native American for whom the town was named after.

“I just felt a connection, I feel like the spirits are here, the Sac and Fox Indians, with Chief Keokuk the city named after him, I feel their spirit when I’m here,” Swena said.

Bald Eagle Appreciation Days continue on Sunday at the Montrose Riverfront Landing, 203 N. First Street.

Sunday’s festivities begin with a breakfast at 9 a.m. followed by scavenger hunts, nature displays and more.

A full schedule of Sunday’s agenda can be found here.

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