|It's all about the people!|
One of the most striking aspects of the Biggest Week to me is the incredibly diverse backgrounds that the participants and leaders come from. At the festival, diversity comes in many forms. It always amazes me when I find out how different birder's backgrounds can be. The festival attracts people of all experience levels - from brand new birders all the way up to the most experienced listers and everyone in between. People from all over the world travel to northwest Ohio to watch one of the most amazing migration events in North America. I met birders from around the United States and from many countries in Europe and South America. No matter where you live, what your ethnicity is, how experienced you are, or what your socioeconomic status is, you can be a birder and you will be welcomed by everyone at the Biggest Week!
The diverse backgrounds of the Biggest Week participants has led to some pretty awesome events during the festival. Have you ever heard of a birding festival that has a bird tattoo contest?!? The festival also offers really nice evening socials that are fun not just birders but also their non-birding friends and family members. They offer a chance for everyone to come together and talk about more than just the birds that were seen that day.
Another awesome aspect of the festival is the camaraderie that is built during the week among the participants. On one of the field trips that my wife and I led, we had two very new birders, Katie and Marie. When the rest of the bus found out how new they were and realized that Marie might be able to see her 150th lifer during our trip, everyone rallied around her and helped her see through binoculars every bird that would be a lifer! Katie had a spectacular day too and doubled her life list! It was amazing to see how a group of people that have almost nothing in common other than their interest in birding came together so quickly. My wife and I ran into many of the people from our trip again later in the week. Hugs were exchanged, we caught up on life lists, and we shared experiences from the festival.
The Biggest Week really shows what is good about birding. We all enjoy the birds, but it would not be nearly as much fun to go out birding without the amazing people that we meet and the relationships that we build.