CLARKSVILLE – It’s a happy coincidence of man and nature: Lock and Dam 27, just north of Clarksville, roils up the Mississippi, discombobulating fish and leaving them easy targets for birds of prey.
There are no guarantees on any given weekend — but for decades, people have gathered in Clarksville to spot the eagles as they perch on river ice and swoop for their food.
Associated educational programming — including a film, playing on the half hour, and demonstrations with live eagles, starting on the hour — fills out the experience.
On Friday, Jan. 24, schoolchildren — more than 1,000 have attended past Eagle Days events — will come to town to learn about the national bird.
Saturday and Sunday’s events draws visitors from the general public.
Scopes for spotting eagles in the wild, manned by members of the Missouri Naturalists, will be available for eagle-eyed eagle-spotters.
The program has generally been put on by the Missouri Department of Conservation. When the department indicated that they would not be putting on the third day of programming last year due to budget cuts, locals stepped in to keep the Sunday portion of the event going.
MDC Outreach and Education Chief Shawn Gruber said that Sunday had generally been the least well-attended portion of the event.
“If we had to trim back budgets and staff time, [Sundays] made logical sense,” Gruber said. “It was my understanding that local partners were willing to take that Sunday over, because of course that contributes to the local economy, having that significant event there another day,” Gruber said.
Raintree Arts Council, the Pike County non-profit that maintains the Clarksville Apple Shed, has taken responsibility for Sundays.
“I kind stuck my foot in my mouth and said I would like to host the event on Sundays, to see how it would impact the program,” Raintree Arts Council board member Linda Blakey said. Blakey added that she thought it was important to educate people on the national bird — and maintain a program that brought people to Clarksville.
Bringing in the eagles for the programs is an expensive prospect, and Raintree is exploring different ways of recouping the cost, including the possibility of grant funding and fee-paying vendors.
Blakey is still willing to accept new vendors for this year’s event, though she cautioned that she would be vetting the vendors, looking for homemade and nature-themed crafts and items. As of late last week, Blakey said she had five or six vendors coming.
Official programming will take place in the Apple Shed in Clarksville from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 25 and Sunday, Jan. 26, with the last show starting at 4 p.m., and from 10 a.m. Sunday, with the last show starting at 4 p.m.
Blakey noted that visitors to this year’s Eagle Days will be able to visit many newly opened businesses in town, many of which have good views of the river — and, hopefully, of the eagles hovering over it.
In addition to local restaurants, Clarksville United Methodist Church and Clarksville’s VFW post plan to sell food as fundraisers.