Great Delta Bear Affair
2009 "Just Another Day in Bearadise "
The 8th annual Great Delta Bear Affair (GDBA) will be held on October 24th this year with the theme "Just Another Day in Bearadise!"
2008 "Bearing it all for 150 Years"
The 7th annual Great Delta Bear Affair (GDBA) was held on October 25 and attracted over 6,000 people to the quaint Mississippi delta town of Rolling Fork. In addition to raising awareness about black bears in the state, it also commemorated Theodore Roosevelt’s sesquicentennial birthday and themed the event “Bearing it all for 150 years – the legacy and the legend.”
Case Hicks from Colorado, nationally known Theodore Roosevelt living historian, was the center of attention for the 2008 festival and related activities. Hicks, dressed as President Roosevelt in his formal best, was the master of ceremonies for the Theodore Roosevelt National Wildlife Refuge dedication program held on the main stage during the festival. VIP speakers for the dedication were elected officials from the federal to the local levels, significant players in refuge establishment, and refuge managers including Holly Gaboriault, Deputy Area Supervisor, from the Regional Office. At the end of the ceremony, a 150th birthday cake was presented to Hicks, along with a super-sized greeting card fashioned by our own nationally recognized graphic artist Ellen Marcus. Birthday cake was also served during the pre-festival, Friday night fundraiser. Hicks, re-enacting TR, was again the focus as he was surrounded by the local phenomenon the “Teddy Queens” paying homage the President and the iconic creation attributed to Roosevelt – the beloved Teddy bear.
Hicks, clad in Rough Riders’ attire, was also a presenter during the Great Delta Bear Affair Youth Education Day on Friday, October 24. Youth Ed Day provides an exciting and didactic field trip for about 450 fourth graders where they learn about natural resources, the environment, conservation and of course, black bears. Hicks, and Holt Collier re-enactor Ollie Morganfield, talked with the students from all around the Mississippi delta about Theodore Roosevelt’s renowned 1902 bear hunt in Sharkey County, Mississippi. Holt Collier was Roosevelt’s legendary guide for that famous hunt more than a century ago. Morganfield, an employee of the Theodore Roosevelt National Wildlife Refuge Complex, was by Hicks’ side for most of the weekend’s GDBA events.
In addition to all the Roosevelt-featured , the Great Delta Bear Affair also offered: the Wildlife Olympics competition for high school teams, a horse-trail ride, the long-distance black bear bicycle ride, a 5K run/walk, tours of prehistoric Indian mounds, live music all day long, arts and crafts, educational seminars, storytelling, children’s amusements, food, food, food, and an incredible fireworks display to conclude one of the best fun-filled family days in the South.
Contributed by: Connie Light Dickard, BEaR Public Affairs
2007 "Bear Tracks Through History"
The 2007 Great Delta Bear Affair attracted more than 7,000 people to the quaint community of Rolling Fork, Mississippi, on October 27.
Festival goers could relate to the 2007 GDBA theme “Bear Tracks through History” by attending seminars on black bears, other wildlife, wild-game cooking and Mississippi delta history. They could listen to storytelling, buy a book and get it signed by the Mississippi author, or talk with the Teddy Roosevelt living historian and his trusty hunting guide, Holt Collier. They could watch the Wildlife Olympics high school competition, join the archaeological tours of the area, or take a bird walk on the nearby Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge. And in between all of the heritage, cultural and natural resource activities, folks could participate in the first GDBA distance bicycle ride through the south delta, run or walk a 5K race around the town, or just sit back and enjoy continuous musical entertainment all day long, eat delicious homemade food, shop for arts and crafts among the 60-plus vendors, and be awed by a fireworks finale to rival most 4th of July displays.
The day before the GDBA festival on October 26, one kick-off function included Youth Education Day for more than 400 Mississippi delta fourth graders. Natural resource professionals from a variety of agencies engaged the students in discussions, activities, games and presentations related to wildlife, our environment and natural resources of the area. The Sharkey-Issaquena Soil and Water Conservation District assisted with Youth Ed Day.
Another function, “Bear Bones Cooking with Billy Joe Cross,” occurred that Friday evening. Chef Cross titillated taste buds at a special ticketed soiree where he prepared, demonstrated and served wild-game cuisine. Viking Range Corporation graciously provided their fully equipped, traveling cooking rig for Cross’ use.
In addition to the two kick-off functions, one week prior to the festival on October 20, the Great Delta Bear Affair horse-trail ride was held on the Delta National Forest, which is just a stone’s throw away from Rolling Fork.
Now in its sixth year, the goals of the Great Delta Bear Affair continue to be: 1). raise awareness about the federally protected black bear, 2). commemorate Theodore Roosevelt’s conservation legacy and his famous 1902 bear hunt in Mississippi that gave rise to the Teddy bear, and 3). highlight the natural resource opportunities of the state’s delta region. To keep the GDBA going, many civic-minded people from Rolling Fork continue to work with representatives from organizations, and state and federal agencies, to plan and implement the festival and associated functions. Many individual contributors, along with committed corporate sponsors including Cellular South, Delta Telephone, Comcast, Entergy, Gannett Foundation, Viking Range Corporation, Diamond Jacks and BEaR, provide the critical financial support necessary to make the Great Delta Bear Affair a reality.
By most festival standards, the 2007 Great Delta Bear Affair was “a cut above” with exceptional educational events, fantastic food, enjoyable entertainment, a variety of vendors, acclaimed activities and picture perfect weather. Organizers and attendees alike agreed that this year’s GDBA was the biggest and best one yet. And, as always, all proceeds from the Great Delta Bear Affair festival and associated functions go toward helping bring black bears back to Mississippi.
Contributed by: Connie Light Dickard, BEaR Public Affairs
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