“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