I'm struggling today. The Northwest Sports Show is a big fun outdoors experience and I thought it was a great opportunity when the organizers asked for help in creating a bird watching room. Several bird clubs came together to put together what we thought would be a fun and interesting booth set up, but we are not meeting the standards set by some of the other groups and vendors. We have a small spinning "wheel of fortune" type game where kids answer questions and get either a bird tattoo or little compass, information from various bird clubs and festivals, a table full of stuffed birds (that no one can touch--oils on human hands damages feathers), a display of bluebird houses and a video from the Bluebird Recovery Program, and my table full of binoculars and a scope people can test out.
What do they have next door to us? A touch a live shark tank! How do you compete with that? Not only that, they have all sorts of dead and dried out sea and like life that kids can touch. They also have a wheel of fortune game that has a wheel three times as large as ours. Across the way is a trout-fishing tank where kids can fish out of--with actual trout and the vendor booths have pheasants, foxes, antlers from deer, elk and all sorts of beast. It's a feast for the eyes and something tangible that you can touch. I suddenly came to the realization that it's incredibly difficult to capture the fun and excitement of birding and present it in a booth. With hunting and fishing, you have trophies of either the whole animal or some of the parts that you can touch and see up close. With birds, we really can't do that. Birders are all about seeing things in the wild--we're about enjoying birds without touching them or taking them--except for bird banders. So, it's difficult to have something tangible for kids to touch.
I talked to another lady in the booth about maybe finding some hawk wings and feet that we can bring for kids to touch and look at up close and maybe bring in some more sounds to play in the room that says, "birds"! Actually, I've been playing birdPod on my laptop and getting people interested in that.
Even our talks aren't that well attended, last night I had two guys show up for a "basics on birdhouses" discussion. They politely asked if I would talk for ten minutes on what hawks they should worry about eating their pheasants. So, I'm now wondering if I can throw together a PowerPoint that is something along the lines of "cool birds you see when hunting" or "top food animals of hawks and owls". These people aren't interesting in learning about getting started in bird watching, bird feeding and housing. They want to know about birds and how it relates to them. Mark Alt, the president of the MOU is sending out flyers of the top ten most wanted birds in the state. Birds that we should be seeing based on neighboring state records or from carcasses recently found (like a barn owl that flew into someone's window in the Twin Cities this winter). Chances are, these hunters and fishermen are seeing them too.
I'm not saying that we didn't work hard and put together some good booths, but what we have is not right for this audience. Just some food for thought that I'm going to mull over for future opportunities at hunting shows.