Refuge Celebrating 75th Anniversary at ‘Ding’ Darling Day

provided to The Santiva Chronicle

In deference to pandemic complications, this year’s “Ding” Darling Day moved to Dec. 1, in concert with the 75th Anniversary Celebration at the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island. The refuge has scaled back activities, in keeping with CDC protocols, to present a relaxed and engaging day outdoors interacting with nature.

Wildlife Drive will be open free of charge, from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., to all visitors. Environmental exhibitors and plein-air artists will be spread along the “Ding” Darling Visitor & Education Center parking lot, Indigo Trail, and Wildlife Drive that day.

A Ding-O Bingo Scavenger Hunt will allow attendees to self-tour the exhibits in an engaging but distanced manner and win a prize for completion. Scavenger hunt forms are available online at and that day at the information table at the bottom of the Visitor & Education Center ramp.

Other free activities will include a 4-mile, ranger-guided “Go the Distance” bike tour at 9:30 a.m. and a 1 p.m. 75th Anniversary Presentation with Acting Refuge Manager Kevin Godsea and dignitaries, outdoors in the parking lot area. Also, in the parking lot, 2021 “Ding” Artist in Residence Rachel Pierce will be doing nature art demonstrations, and the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge (DDWS) will display the winning photos from its 2020 “Ding” Darling Day Amateur Nature Photography Contest. See a list of more activities below.

“’Ding’ Day may look entirely different this year, but it still has the same mission to get families and others out to the refuge and exploring and learning about the great outdoors,” said Toni Westland, supervisory refuge ranger and “Ding” Darling Day committee chair. “We didn’t want to miss an opportunity to celebrate our official 75th anniversary date on Dec. 1 with friends and neighbors as safely as possible. We will be building a time capsule that day. It will go on display thereafter in the Visitor & Education Center.”

“Thanks to our faithful sponsors, who have helped turn this into a day of celebration that ends with a ticketed 1940s drive-in theater gala in the evening,” said Birgie Miller, executive director of the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society, gala host and co-sponsor of the “Ding” Darling Day. For more information, visit

“Ding” Darling Day Scheduled Activities
7 a.m. – Wildlife Drive opens free of charge
9 a.m. Information table opens with Ding-O Bingo forms and hand-outs. Wildlife Drive/Indigo Trail and parking lot stations open for safe self-touring.
9:30 a.m. Ranger-guided, 4-mile “Go the Distance” Distanced Bike Tour for first 10 arrivals, Wildlife Drive (bring your own bikes and helmets, meet at flagpole)
1 p.m. 75th Anniversary Presentation, parking lot

Ongoing 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Exhibitors along Wildlife Drive and Indigo Trail, CROW exhibit in parking lot
“Ding” Darling Day Amateur Nature Photography Contest Winners display in parking lot
Art demonstrations by 2021 Resident Artist Rachel Pierce in parking lot
USFWS Law Enforcement Vehicles Exhibit in parking lot
Mobile Nature Store in parking lot
Ding-O Bingo scavenger hunt with prizes
Plein-air artists on Wildlife Drive and Indigo Trail

“Ding” Darling Day and 75th Anniversary Celebration sponsors:
Call of the Wild Sponsor: Jim & Patty Sprankle; Champion Sponsors: Bank of the Islands, Jim & Liz Birmingham, Todd & Barbara Bluedorn, Wayne & Linda Boyd, Boomer Duvin & Family, John & Kathy McCabe, Hank & Linda Spire; Guardian Sponsors: Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille, Margie Furniss & Ed Kfoury, Bill & Laurie Harkey, Rex Martin & Lori Harris, Bill & Diane Valerian, Willow the Whippet; Protector Sponsors: Barefoot Charley’s Painting Co. LLC, George & Wendy’s Seafood Grille, Island Sun, Tiffani Kaliko & John Silvia, William & Barbara Millar, Mitchell’s SandCastles, Greg & Linda Scherer, Ron E. & Josephine Smith; Defender Sponsors: Mike & Terry Baldwin, The Community House, Doug & Sherry Gentry, The Gresham Family, Paul Harmon, Kiwanis Club of Sanibel & Captiva Islands, Sanibel Carts, Sanibel Moorings.

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