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'Ding' Darling is going 'Trailgating'

February 12, 2014
By ROBBIE SPENCER ( , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

One of "Ding" Darling Wildlife Society's newest events hopes to teach Islanders how to properly "Trailgate."

The 2nd Annual Trailgate party, themed "In the Pink," will feature an array of food, entertainment, and over 50 donated silent and live auction items. The items will be sold in the name of research and education for the J.N. "Ding" Darling Wildlife Refuge. The theme of this year's party pays homage to the locally renowned roseate spoonbill.

"It's a really fun, laid-back event," said Birgie Miller, executive director of DDWS-Friends of the Refuge. "Our sponsors have been amazing this year."

Article Photos

Original, custom-framed political cartoon by 'Ding' Darling, created for the Oct. 19, 1937 issue of the Des Moines Register. The cartoon will be one of several live auction items sold, with all proceeds to support the important Mangrove Cuckoo bird project along with other conservation programs at the refuge.

Among the donated auction items is an original 1937 political cartoon penned by none other than "Ding" Darling himself. According to Miller, it was donated by a family whose health was deteriorating. They donated the timeless treasure hoping the Refuge could display and/or benefit from it.

"It's amazing the foresight 'Ding' had when he created the cartoon," Miller said. "We're thrilled to have such a timeless piece up for auction. Hopefully it finds a good home."

The cartoon is one of five live auction items to be sold off by auctioneer Richard Johnson, general manager of Bailey's General Store. Others include memberships in the "Ding" Darling Sprankle Feather Club, the Original "Ding" Mangrove Cuckoo Experience, recognition rights in the Duck Decoy exhibit (in the Visitor & Education Center) and a jeepney tour for four to an undisclosed destination.

Fact Box

FACT BOX: 2nd Annual "In the Pink Trailgate" Party

When: Friday, Feb. 21 at 5:30 p.m.

Where: J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge, under the "trailgate" tent (staff parking lot) off San-Cap Road.

Tickets: $75 per person. All proceeds to benefit research and education at the Refuge.

Theme/Dress: Casual (wear pink and receive a pink treat)

Information: Call Birgie Miller at 239-292-0566 or email

There will also be over 50 silent auction items available for guests to bid on, with all proceeds benefiting the refuge and its many conservation projects. Miller noted this event was originally inspired by the Mangrove Cuckoo bird project.

It's a long-term research project by the Ecostudies Institute in an effort to study the species' ecology and life history. The Mangrove Cuckoo has been found only in south Florida. Several of the birds have been sighted in the Wildlife Refuge.

"The species is extremely rare. It's an elusive bird that's been fascinating to study," Miller said.

According to the Ecostudies Institute, previous research showed the species is only found in south Florida and that its population has significantly declined. Their research hopes to provide strategies to conserve and protect the species. They have worked with the DDWS to build an educational program aimed at teaching local school groups and adults about conserving the Mangrove Cuckoo and its habitat.

Registration expects to exceed 300 with less than 100 available tickets remaining. Tickets are $75 and include admission, a feast from local restaurant, live entertainment, prizes for "in the pink" attire, and free photo-booth souvenirs.

"Last year's event was a great success," said Jess Shelton, associate director of the DDWS. "We expect this edition to be even better."

Attendance is by reservation only. Tickets are available by phone at 292-0566 or online at



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