A fairly new local group is holding a rather large event this week that's drawing people from across the country.
The North American Bluebird Society's 36th Annual Conference is taking place in Aiken, starting Thursday and running through Saturday. The South Carolina Bluebird Society, established in Aiken, is hosting the event.
The South Carolina Bluebird Society started with about 20 members in October 2010. The group was founded originally as the Central Savannah River Bluebird Society by current President Jim Burke with the help of members Roger Brock and Ron Brenneman. Now, the nonprofit group has grown to more than 130 members.
The purpose behind the Bluebird Society is to promote education and help preserve bluebirds and other cavity nesters. The local chapter has established several bluebird trails by installing nest boxes around the county to give the birds a place to nest and for its young to successfully fledge.
Burke said the local society chapter was asked to host the conference in the spring of 2011, just months after the group formed. He said he was a bit shocked, but also honored that the group was asked to take on such a task.
“Our members have been amazing on volunteering to do different things,” Burke said.
According to Terry McGrath, who edits the local group's newsletter, they have 168 registrants for the conference coming from 22 states, two provinces in Canada and one from Germany.
McGrath said between Burke's vision, the City's cooperation and the help behind the scenes from Society members as well as other residents, the event is coming together nicely.
The conference has several field trips and tours planned that will take attendees through a variety of local natural spots, including the Silver Bluff Audubon Center in Jackson, Hitchcock Woods and Phinizy Swamp in Augusta, just to name a few.
Burke added that the community has really stepped in and participated in the organization of the event. He said the City's tourism office and the Aiken Downtown Development Association has been extremely helpful. Local artists have donated items for the silent auction. Area experts and professors have stepped up to offer their time and knowledge during tours. Burke said it's been a bit overwhelming, and he's thankful for everything that has been done to help the local chapter put together this conference.
“I'm kind of blown away by the support of so many,” Burke said.
Brenneman added that the South Carolina Bluebird Society is excited to show off Aiken and all it has to offer.
“It is an honor that they asked us to do this – by the time they asked us, we were less than a year old,” Brennaman said. “We're really looking forward to it.”
Amy Banton is the County reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the publication since May 2010.