Rains chills the crowds at Southeastern Wildlife Expo on Saturday afternoon
The weather for Saturday’s Southeastern Wildlife Exposition was a mirror of this topsy turvy winter in the Lowcountry, starting out warm and sunny in the morning, turning cold, blustery and wet in the afternoon, and wrapping up crisp and clear.
At midday, Marion Square was jammed with throngs of people, and while the afternoon rain thinned it quite a bit, the park was far from dead.
In contrast to the 11 a.m. Birds of Prey Center flight demonstration, when people lined up eight deep surrounding an open area, a scattering of diehards with umbrellas in hand watched the 3 p.m. show.
And while the humans wanted to be there, the birds appeared a bit grumpy at being hauled into the rain and chilly winds after an already stressful weekend of meeting expogoers.
The center’s Harris Hawk, a native of the desert Southwest, flew to the top of a tent and sat for about a minute before being lured back into the ring. The same went for a gyr-prairie falcon hybrid that went for the roof of Citadel Square Baptist Church.
“Ah, there’s nothing like a rainy day at the expo,” quipped Stephen Schabel, while addressing the crowd during the afternoon flight demonstration.
Center Director Jim Elliott said he thinks people like it when the birds don’t cooperate fully.
“They appreciate the fact that it’s not a controlled thing, that the birds aren’t robots,” said Elliott.
In contrast to the soggy conditions on Saturday afternoon, Sunday’s weather appears ideal for the third and final day of the expo, which includes a flight demonstration at 1 p.m.
The Kristen and Jamie Weston family from Augusta, Ga., who brought their three children Adair, Annie and Spencer, planned for the well-forecasted rainy afternoon during their first ever visit to SEWE.
Kristen Weston, who found out about the expo by seeing a billboard for it after participating in the Charleston Half Marathon, said the family arrived Friday and planned to focus on the activities at Marion Square on Saturday morning and then go to Brittlebank Park for the DockDogs finals on Sunday.
Jamie Weston recalled living in Charleston in the early 1990s when SEWE wasn’t nearly as big as this weekend’s. Not only were his kids enjoying all the animals at Marion Square, so was he.
“I love dogs and birds of prey, so I had a good day,” said Weston.
The message of conservation seemed to balance out commercial endeavors at Marion Square.
Among the more interesting booths was The Orianne Society, a Clayton, Ga.-based conservation group focused on the plight of reptiles and amphibians, and making its first appearance at SEWE. Society staffers gave people an opportunity not only to see three endangered species — the indigo snake, the Louisiana pine snake and the bog turtle — but to hold or touch them.
Catherine Gunnells of Charleston was intrigued by the beauty and calmness of the indigo snake.
“It’s like a people-person snake,” she jokingly described.
Heidi Hall, program manager of Orianne, said bringing the snakes to the public draws the range of emotions, from fear and revulsion to fascination and love. She added that Orianne seeks to educate people on the vital purpose reptiles and amphibians have in the environment.
Another packed tent was the one featuring South Carolina-grown food items, including chef demonstrations, such as the Culinary Institute’s Miles Huff using all South Carolina produce for a shrimp salad.