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Fly Like An Eagle

The symbol of American freedom and strength, the once-endangered bald eagle has been a vital part of the country's identity since its adoption as the national emblem in 1782. In honor of this magnificent bird, the East Texas town of Emory hosts its Ninth Annual Eagle Fest on February 7 and 8 at the Rains County Fair Grounds.

Along with educational displays, exhibitions, lectures, arts and crafts, food, and live music, the festival offers a number of eagle-watching tours (both on land and by boat). Two nonprofit bird-rehabilitation organizations, On the Wing Again and Last Chance Forever, will conduct demonstrations that give visitors the opportunity to see eagles, vultures, hawks, and other birds of prey up close.

Named the "Eagle Capital of Texas" in 1995 by the 74th Texas Legislature, today Rains County is the winter home of almost 50 bald eagles. The white-headed, brown-bodied birds, which weigh approximately nine pounds and have a wingspan of six to eight feet, favor the county's Lake Fork Reservoir for its fishable waters and scarcity of human disturbance. In the treetops lining the banks, the raptors construct their huge nests, which can span 20 feet and weigh 4,000 pounds.

The bald eagle gained protected status in 1940 when Congress passed the Bald Eagle Protection Act, which made it illegal to possess the birds without a permit or to kill them. In 1978, in most states, bald eagles were listed as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act; they were downlisted to a threatened species in 1995.

For more information about Eagle Fest, visit www.eaglefest.org, or call the Rains County Chamber of Commerce at 800/561-1182. –Jennifer Nalewicki

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From the March 1998 issue.

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