As any Animal who has ever attended the event knows, the Snowbird Farewell is one of The Park’s most joyous and emotional Autumn celebrations.
It’s a chance to enjoy great food and entertainment, and to wish our Avian population well on their journey south.
But that’s not the way it always goes, these days.
“Time was, you’d say a teary farewell to your Avian friends and hope you would see them in the Spring,” says Dewi Beruang, who attended her tenth Farewell this year.
“These days, you say goodbye and then arrange to meet them the next day.”
Beruang is not the only one who’s noticed the difference: the tales of those who work in Avian aid organizations or whose businesses cater to Avians bear out her story.
“The Park’s permanent [Avian] population has increased dramatically, in part because more Birds are opting to stay in The Park year-round,” says Rafael Ortega, the chief organizer of the Fowl Ball. Last year, the charity decided to use the funds they raised from the event to build and maintain a retirement residence for the growing number of The Park’s wounded and elderly Birds.
“Many of them find migration difficult or impossible,” Ortega says. “We have to find them a permanent place to live.”
But illness and old age are not the only reasons that Birds are staying put.
“From what I can tell, life here has become less challenging in the Winter months, and life outside The Park more so,” says Nicoletta Cardinale, owner of STRICTLY FOR THE BIRDS, a travel agency that specializes in migration travel. Cardinale says business at the agency is down twenty percent from last year.
“A few years ago, we were swamped and I had to hire five new agents in one season. Now, I have to lay off the same five,” she says.
But Wellington Whistlepig, president of the Park Association of Shops and Services (PASS) claims that not all Avian-related businesses are suffering, citing the “astronomical” growth of CyBird Dating Services and Gandermatch.com as examples.
“What’s good for the Goose, as they say,” he chuckles.
GooseBook, too, has noticed the difference.
“We’ve been tracking this for a few years now, and it’s true,” says GooseBook’s President and C.E.O., Lester C. Gander.
“In the past, there was a lot of pre-migration activity as well as mid-trip and arrival posting. Now, there is much less travel-related Avian activity on the site, while, of course, there are more Birds joining every day,” he says.
And, finally, the Snowbird Farewell itself has seen what organizing committee president Cécile Bardot calls a “seismic shift” not only in attendance numbers but in the event’s raison d’être.
“There will always be migrators, of course, so we will always host the Farewell. But there may come a time when we have to expand its rôle in the social calendar. And, of course, we will need more funding,” she says.