LACOMBE, La. - A wildlife event that attracts thousands of visitors every year, especially children, is the latest local victim of the government shutdown.
Employees at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-Southeast Louisiana National Wildlife Refuges office in Lacombe spent all of Monday trying to get that message out to the public in a hurry.
"We really wanted to have it. It’s a great community event, but we felt that given so many moving parts we just had to draw a line somewhere, and this is a new week and a time to make a decision and we decided we can't do it," said Project Leader Ken Litzenberger.
"Wild Things" is a one-day wildlife-related event held once a year, for the past 16 years. It displays the area's wild resources and teaches the thousands of visitors that attend, mainly children, new skills. It was set to open Saturday.
"Pontoon boat rides, canoe rides, pellet shooting, bird house building, live herps, live birds and mammals and just all kinds of hands on things for kids to do," said Litzenberger.
The Pontchartrain Basin Fly Fishing Club has participated in Wild Things since the start of the event, and leaders are unhappy about the shutdown's effects on it.
"It's really sad. It's been a great event,” said Colin McCormick. “It's been important as far as educating the kids and it’s a lot of fun for everybody, but there are a lot more important things that are being canceled too and disrupted too because of the shutdown."
In addition to having to get the word out about the event being canceled, the shutdown has the staffing down to about seven people, so the employees not on furlough are having to make calls for Wild Things and do all of their regular jobs, plus the jobs of others, on top of it.
"We had to let people know," Litzenberger said. "We're getting a lot of calls. They're just sad that it's not going to happen, but they understand there's nothing we can do about it."
Event sponsors are being offered reimbursements or to rollover their contributions to next year’s event. For any questions about this year’s cancellation, you can call the Southeast Louisiana National Wildlife Refuges Office at 985-882-2000.