Yes . . . Rainy.
More than 120 Friends members came. They dodged the rain, or were met by the welcome crew, led by Board member John Thalacker with a golf umbrella, came to the registration tent and signed in with the Membership team . . . Marci and Jim Wilcox, Greg Lang, Ann Webster, Mac Cox, Peg Hall, Maria Sgambati . . . and headed off to the Silent Auction, Friends Store, and Presentation Room. New memberships, renewals, and donations at the door brought in over $800.
The Silent Auction was set up on the log cabin headquarters building and on its porch. All 60 items brought multiple bids. Thanks to all the donors who provided the items, to all the Friends who purchased the donated items, and to the organizers especially Barbara Hudson and Donna Bushnell, Friends brought in more than $2,000 from the event.
The Friends Store has always been set up under our "festival tent" in the past. Not a chance in yesterday's rain. So Board members Carmelo Echevarria and Sherry Beauchamp moved it into an office in the fire building. That worked wonderfully. The merchandise was easier to see and make selections. It was a great place to browse while you warmed up and dried off. More than $300 in items to spread the word about the Refuge were sold.
The annual overview of the refuge's work by Refuge Manager Andrew Gude, the review of the year's accomplishments by Friends president Bob Hudson, and the election and installation of officers, all were well received by the standing-room-only crowd.
Dr. Coleman Sheehy's presentation about island ecology and its affect on biodiversity captured the crowd. The question and answer session was proof of how engaging the presentation was. It seemed everyone had multiple questions and comments! Coleman is the Associate Director of the Seahorse Key Marine Lab, which is a University of Florida facility located, by special agreement with the Refuge, on one of the islands that is part of the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge.
Then came a part we all look forward to . . . lunch cooked by Ken and Rose McCain. Ribs, chicken, baked beans, swamp cabbage, cole slaw and rolls were abundant, as were desserts brought by members.
Just in time, the rain let up for the lunch line. The refuge staff offered a nature walk after lunch. We visited the bat house to hear from Pam Darty about the bats and the bees, walked part of the River Trail with Larry Woodward, got a preview of the new Tram Trail with Daniel Barrand who talked about the forestry history of the refuge and Vic Doig who talked about the use of prescribed fire.
It was an excellent 2015 Friends Annual Meeting and Refuge Open House.
Photos by Bill Kilborn, Milli Chapell. Marci Wilcox, Peg Hall. If you have some to share, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Refuge is open daily from dawn to dusk.
Visitors are welcome to walk or bicycle around yellow Refuge gates.
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"Escape to the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge" video by Visit Florida