Fans flock to Arlington Eagle Festival, annual winter wing ding that welcomes return of the birds

ARLINGTON – Crowds filled downtown Arlington for the Eagle Festival last weekend, an annual wing ding that welcomes the return of wintering bald eagles to the Stillaguamish River to feed on spawning salmon.

The two-day festival featured a variety of activities including guided tours, a bird identification walk, chainsaw sculpture show, nature and educational outreach exhibits, eagle-themed art and photography, draft horse wagon rides, petting farm animals, food, live entertainment and more.

The new Stillaguamish Collective – StillCo – and Stilly Valley Chamber of Commerce office on 3rd Street served as information center for the festival. The lobby hosted a rock and gem display and collective art project highlighting Arlington’s salmon-spawning streams, while staff handed out plush stuffed eagles to young visitors.

Chris Barkin of Everett and his children grabbed their plush toys on the way out to explore the event, the reward from a treasure hunt hosted by the chamber where participants used clues to gain stamps for visiting enough business stamps. Barkin said his son Alex, 7, likes eagles almost as much as dinosaurs.

“We’re big eagle fans, so we wanted to come have a look at what the excitement was all about,” Barkin said. “We plan to go down to the river later and hopefully see some eagles in their natural habitat, just doing eagle stuff.”

For visitors unable to catch a glimpse of eagles on nature walks along the riverfront, Sarvey Wildlife Center staff brought their main attraction, Freedom, a 21-year-old bald eagle and other birds of prey that were on display in the City Council Chambers.

The eaglet was discovered in 1998 when she fell out of a nest in Edmonds, breaking both wings, and sickly thin since she had not been eating for a long time, Sarvey volunteer Robert Lee said, sharing her story with the crowd.

“If she would have been picked up just a couple of hours later she probably wouldn’t have made it,” Lee said.

Sarvey staff and veterinarians nursed her back to health, but the left wing is frozen in place at the elbow, so she can’t fly any more.

Other birds on display impressed onlookers with their fully extended wingspans, and appeared to enjoy the attention.

The largest outdoor attraction featured the Extreme Chainsaw Sculpture Show in Legion Park, which drew some of the Northwest’s premier award-winning chainsaw carvers. The artists carved eagles, bears and other sculptures in various stages of completion, to the delight of event-goers.

A petting farm at Co-Op Supply run by Arlington FFA students gave kids a chance to sit in straw and commune with more domesticated animals such as goats, pigs and bunnies.

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