That's when the bears begin stirring, and one of the state's newest yet unique festivals gets under way in the Tri-Cities.
Members of the Kentucky Black Bear Festival committee gathered on Friday for their first organizational meeting of the year and to begin brainstorming new events for 2007. This will make the fourth year for the wildlife-themed festival, which is slated for May 11 and 12.
Cumberland Tourism officials, who helped originate the festival, wanted the opportunity to not only celebrate the comeback of the black bears in the Tri-City area and to generate more interest in their hometown, but to also better educate the public about wildlife and stress the importance of proper cohabitation.
The educational component of the festival is what most impresses Kentucky Fish And Wildlife biologist Becky Littleton. She's been a part of the festival committee since its inception.
"It's an opportunity to combine education with fun," Littleton said. "Learning about wildlife is important for an area like the Tri-Cities, which has seen a remarkable re-emergence of the black bears, and when you have that in an atmosphere of festival fun, it just creates a unique learning experience."
During Friday's organizational meeting, Littleton suggested offering scheduled wildlife lectures for the public. A history of Kingdom Come State Park exhibit and nature photography exhibit was also discussed by committee members. Part of the exhibit will include a recognition program for members of the Cumberland Lions Club, who worked to have the land that is now known as Kingdom Come incorporated into the state park system in order to preserve the mountain for future generations to enjoy. The program will possibly be held during a reception for the festival's nature photography exhibit.
Other events that were hashed out were a car show, plus returning festival favorites such as a carnival, and activities organized by Fish and Wildlife staff such as fishing and archery lessons.
"We want people to come and have a fun time here in the Tri-Cities, but we also want people to walk away with not only a better understanding, but a better appreciation for wildlife and their natural surroundings," said Susan Williams, co-chair of the Kentucky Black Bear Festival planing committee.
Williams has also worked with the festival since its beginning with her role as secretary of the Tri-City Chamber of Commerce. But now that she shares the co-director position of Cumberland Tourism, she wants the young festival to grow in popularity and to become a staple event in eastern Kentucky.
"I'm excited to be a part of the planning process this year," added Christy Lewis-Yercine, co-director of Cumberland Tourism and Williams' chair partner on the festival planning committee. "This is a festival that maybe small, but it's got a lot of heart. People here believe in its mission, which is to instill in people love and respect for the outdoors - and to have a little fun in the process."
The next Kentucky Black Bear Festival planning committee meeting will be held on Feb. 16 at 1 p.m. at the Rebecca Caudill Public Library. Williams encourages interested vendors or people wanting to become involved in the festival to attend. For more information, call 589-5812.