The Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor begins its 30th Anniversary Wings ‘n’ Water Festival today with three days of educational and social events continuing through Saturday night.
This is the first year the event is being held in July; Executive Director Lenore Tedesco said the idea was to try and attract newcomers.
“We’re interested in bringing in a different set of people,” she said. “We’re looking for a new demographic.”
The institute is best known for its educational and ecological work, primarily with protecting terrapin turtles and preserving wetlands habitat. It attracts visitors and school groups year-round.
The Wings ‘n’ Water Festival is its leading fundraiser of the year, drawing several thousand people and raising about $60,000 each year in the past.
This year, events will be held at the institute on Stone Harbor Boulevard as well as at other locations including 96th Street in Stone Harbor, Avalon Community Hall and Stone Harbor Elementary School.
The event will feature family educational events and social events for adults like a benefit concert at The Princeton restaurant and bar in Avalon on Thursday night, a wine and beer tasting at the Stone Harbor Women’s Civic Club, a sunset cocktail cruise on Friday night and a benefit auction party on Saturday night.
Tedesco said the main draw is always the live auction, which features about 250 rare items like a trip for four people on a private jet to North Carolina, an African safari trip for two and a birding adventure for six with Tedesco.
The institute will also be showing off the ecological work it has been doing, such as incubating terrapin eggs to later be released into the wild, and a recent project to begin growing horseshoe crabs from salvaged eggs.
Some of the terrapin eggs the center saved from turtles that were crushed along the area’s roadways started hatching at the institute this week, Tedesco said.
“They thought, geez, you got nothing else going on, we’ll hatch,” she said.