Fort Lauderdale: home of pristine beaches, mega yachts, and some of the most exquisite resorts in Florida. Once a spring break mecca for college students, this popular tourist destination is now host to Florida's largest Ducks Unlimited Greenwing event.
The Greenwing Festival, which last September hosted more than 300 guests—140 of which were Greenwings (youth under the age of 18)—was launched by the Fort Lauderdale chapter two years ago in an effort to raise awareness of the value of wetlands, especially among the area's youth. Conserving the Everglades, an area that continues to be impacted by agricultural and urban development, is a priority here. This "River of Grass," which is home to more than 350 species of birds, has lost more than half of its original wetlands.
The idea of introducing youth to the outdoors and wetlands conservation found a ready supporter in Florida Wildlife Commissioner "Alligator" Ron Bergeron, who generously allowed the Fort Lauderdale DU chapter to host its gathering at his private ranch. With the help of additional local sponsors such as Bass Pro Shops, Stephens Distributing (Budweiser), Publix, Hugh's Catering, McDonalds and Captain Harry's Fishing Supply, the event became an instant success.
"Without the sponsors and volunteers, we would have never pulled this off," said event chairman Bill Vizcaino. "This event has grown tremendously in just two years, and based on the dozens of emails I received thanking us, I can safely say that next year's event will once again be a success for both Ducks Unlimited and our youth."
Event activities included fishing in a stocked pond with Bass Pro Shops pro-staff, archery instruction by Seminole Indians, and supervised target shooting with a .410 shotgun. Officer Juntenen of the Florida Wildlife Commission and his black Lab gave obedience and retrieving demonstrations. Kids also enjoyed an exciting live alligator-wrestling exhibition and experienced the thrill of riding a mechanical bull. But the highlight of the event was perhaps the top-prize giveaway—a lifetime youth sportsman's license—which went to the happy Greenwing who picked the lucky spot on the "Duck Drop" board.