Houston, Minn. celebrates International Festival of Owls

In 2003, community members in Houston Minnesota, celebrated the hatching of an owl named Alice. More than 300 people attended sparking the idea of an owl festival.

“We thought well that’s pretty good,” said Karla Bloem, executive director of the International Festival of Owls. “We hardly advertised, and after a few years we started having people fly here from Alabama, California, New York.”

There were also people who started visiting from around the world.

“We thought, “Why are you flying to Houston Minnesota, in March for our owl festival?'” Bloem said.

Bloem said it was because no one was doing anything else quite like it.

“It’s everything you can imagine owl times ten. It’s crazy,” Bloem said. “The whole town gets into it. There’s even stuff I didn’t know was going to happen.”

Bloem has been researching great horned owls since 2004. She said owls have been important to cultures around the world for centuries.

“It’s more than just the biology of it,” Bloem said. “There’s something about owls that really captures the human imagination.”

In 2017, the festival brought over 2,300 people to the area — more than double the town’s population.

Experts said owls are a measure for how the environment is doing.

“If owls are doing well, then that’s a pretty good indicator that rest of the environment is doing ok,” Bloem said.

Through fun and entertaining lectures, Bloem wants to spread her passion for owls and make sure they stick around in the future.

“If I just give boring, biological information, I mean they night be interesting biological facts, but that’s not going to motivate you to care as much as if I talk about those birds as individuals,” Bloem said.

Volunteer coordinator Krishna Saxon said it teaches people about these wide-eyed unique creatures up close and personal.

“They are individuals that they have their own personalities,” Saxon said. “That is what really impacts people and makes them really want to help these creatures.”