DENVER, Colo. (CBS4) – Once a year a small Colorado town depends on a tiny bird for a big economic windfall.
The residents of the tiny town of Karval open their doors to welcome bird watchers at the end of April as they host the Mountain Plover Festival. Seth Gallagher from the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory stopped by CBS4 studios to talk about the event.
“It breeds only on the short grass prairie in North America, so folks come from all over the country and the world to see the species that are here,” Gallagher said. “And mountain plover being one of those, so it’s a great opportunity to get out and see this bird.”
The land in Karval is usually inaccessible to the public, so the festival gives people a real opportunity to see the birds in the nesting grounds up close and personal.
“It’s hosted by private land owners, farmers and ranchers. It’s land that is usually not accessible to the public,” Gallagher said. “So we go out and take guided tours, bounce across the prairie in the school bus, it’s a good time.”
Karval has a population of just 35 people, so they heavily rely on the festival to help with the town’s economy.
“It’s certainly not the silver bullet, but it’s one of many things they do to bring people in and bring some economic flow to the town,” Gallagher said. “It’s a really small community; it’s seven miles off the highway even. So it’s kind of a unique opportunity for folks to get out and see a rural part of Colorado they may not otherwise visit.”
The festival runs for the entire weekend of April 25-26 and is an intimate affair.
“Most of the days are spent in the field bird watching. So they are guided trips, and usually about 20 to 30 people. I think they can take up to about 50 people for the festival. We are out during the day looking for birds, and then in the evening there’s a chuck wagon cookout where the community shows up and there will be 150 people or so who show up to come to dinner, so it’s a really neat affair.”
The visitors should RSVP early because there are no hotels and guests stay with Karval residents at their homes, farms and ranches.
“You stay out with a ranch family, so you learn a lot about, not only the natural history of the birds, you get to see kind of the agricultural life and the day-to-day on how these folks make a living.”