Holed up inside away from the cold for most of the winter, residents and visitors to upstate New York spend a lot of time watching birds out of their windows but the annual Raptor Fest gives us a chance to see some of the most majestic birds up close.
One of the first events of the spring, thousands of visitors get out to see the birds of prey at Raptor Fest on Gallup Ridge Farm in Fort Edward, NY. Seeing animals is always a draw for visitors, and Raptor Fest one event where you’ll see men, women and children, with cameras poised and ready to capture these notorious birds. The glossy brochure and website for Raptor Fest aren’t going to give you a real feel for the event however, so here’s an inside look.
Tip #1 What to Wear to Raptor Fest & Parking in Fort Edward
Tucked away on 186 Blackhouse Road in Fort Edward, NY, Gallup Ridge Farm is a working horse farm large enough to accommodate the crowd of visitors going to the birds at Raptor Fest. An event at a farm is an indicator to dress properly. For the non-farm familiar visitors, that means shoes that are easy to walk in the cold dirt and mud with (no high heels ladies!). Raptor Fest isn’t heated, although it is held under the shelter of a large farm barn (so is a go rain or shine), so be prepared to wear your outdoor gear the entire day.
Raptor Fest parking is along the road, which is often soggy from the spring thaw in Fort Edward, so traffic is detoured and Blackhouse Road is turned into a one-way street. The only entrance to Raptor Fest is off of Route 4 and there aren’t any signs that I could see set up in Fort Edward directing how to get to the farm if you enter from another way. Unless you get to Raptor Fest first thing in the morning, be prepared to walk up to a ½ mile to the farm from your parking spot. (Despite reports to the contrary, the included horse and carriage rides from the farm aren’t to your car.)
Tip #2 Educational Equals Lectures
Now a paid event (years ago it was free of charge) Raptor Fest is mainly an educational event to learn about birds and help protect them in the wild. Kids enjoy seeing the birds at Raptor Fest, but take note, they will have to sit and listen to speakers talking about them on fold-out chairs for an hour just to see a few minutes of live birds actually flying through the air. With the birds’ large wing-spans, seeing them diving for bits of meat is what always elicits gasps of wonder from visitors to the farm.
Different presenters style their programs about birds differently at Raptor Fest, but if you’re bringing young children, choose carefully (descriptions are online) because they will likely only be able to sit through one talk. Raptor Fest presenters walk around with the birds of prey, including owls, falcons, raptors, etc. and answer questions at their tables. There are approximately 6 to 12 birds available for viewing at any one time. Other than this, Raptor Fest has several informational tables, a few bird craft projects for kids to do, and a small gift shop booth on the farm for visitors to enjoy. A bake sale and two food booths along with the horse and carriage rides add to the stuff to do at Raptor Fest, so visitors can expect to spend anywhere from an hour to all day learning about birds of prey.