Feathered friend fanatics flock to East Portland Bird Fest

Why did hundreds of people navigate their way to a hidden industrial complex in Lents in April? Learn about this outer East Portland event here …

Major, Marlene Azar’s Moluccan Cockatoo, shows off for guests at the spring Bird Festival.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Twice each year, on a Saturday, a long line of vehicles can be seen turning north on SE 111th Avenue, off SE Foster Road, in Lents – and driving into an industrial park.

Although the long blue steel building says Quality Cage Company on it, on these weekends folks are coming to see birds, not the small animal and avian cages this local manufacturer makes and ships all over the world.

The company’s manager, Guy Cone, makes a new feathered friend during the event.

“It’s become more difficult for bird breeders to find places to gather for a bird event,” said the company’s manager, Guy Cone. “In 2005, these local breeders asked if we could hold a one-day event at our plant. We did, and that was the start of the Bird Festivals.”

Labor of love
To create space for the Bird Festivals, Cone’s crew clears out the warehouse portion of their building, using fork lifts to stuff all of their raw products and inventory into the rafters and move it over to the manufacturing floor. This creates a clean well-lit space large enough to allow 25 breeders to showcase their finest birds.

“We have to shut down manufacturing for a couple of days to accommodate the Bird Festival,” Cone noted. “But, to see the smiles on the faces of our guests and breeders makes it all worthwhile.”

With the cloth drape sidewalls in place, the warehouse is transformed into an avian wonderland.

Best birds in the Pacific Northwest
Visitors – nearly 700 of them – came to the April 5 Bird Festival. Some of those who come bring along their families, just to look at the wide variety of birds on display at this fun, free event.

When visitors enter, they’re greeted by sound of chirps, squeaks, and squawks made by hundreds of birds on display. Most visitors don’t know they’re in a space that’s usually a warehouse; colorful cloth trade show curtains around the room’s perimeter transform the space an avian wonderland.

While some folks come to gawk, most of the guests come because they’re interested in buying a bird – or two. They’ve learned this is a good place to go bird shopping; feathered friends from small tweetie-birds – to the largest varieties – are on display. The “serious shoppers” arrive before the doors open at 10 a.m., to be assured of having the best selection.

“There isn’t any other bird event this spring between Seattle and San Francisco,” remarked Jack Sutton. “I’m looking for a particular breed of finches; there’s a great selection here. It’s well worth the drive up from Albany to this show.”

An event guest “test-handles” a bird that may become part of the family.

Matching birds with owners
Marko Juarez from Gresham brought his family to the event; they looked at colorful smaller birds, he told us. “All of the breeders are so friendly and happy to tell us about their birds. You learn all kinds of things here you’d never learn by going to a big pet store.”

It’s true; we learned that some of the larger, more intelligent bird breeds can outlive their owners – and require a great deal of care and attention. Many smaller birds are colorful, provide good company, and require only a minimum of care.

Event supports youth sports
Providing hot lunches for the bird breeders and guests were volunteers from TNT Softball, a David Douglas baseball league. Located just across way in a building west of the festival, these dedicated workers cooked up sizzling chili cheeseburgers and hot dogs all day. The funds they raised help support youth sports in outer East Portland.

And, “The Bird Nerd”, Deborah Velardi, was also on hand, dispensing advice on birds – and providing grooming services onsite.

Birds, birds and more birds! The Bird Festival is the only regularly-scheduled bird event of its kind in the region.

Festival returns in October
By the time we visited Quality Cage Company a couple of days later to talk with the staff about this unique event, the Bird Festival space was once again a very industrial-looking warehouse, filled with cages, sheet metal and supplies.

From what we learned, the Bird Festival will return to outer East Portland the first Saturday in October. For more information – or to see photos of the event, CLICK HERE.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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