The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced Friday that Family Fun Day, the Oct. 20 kick-off to "Ding" Darling Days on Sanibel Island, is cancelled because of the federal government shutdown.
The weeklong celebration of "Ding" Darling Days, from Oct. 21-26, is still on and organizers will decide whether to cancel the entire event by Oct. 21, if the government shutdown doesn't end before then.
Birgie Vertesch, executive director of the Ding Darling Society-Friends of the Refuge, said the cancellation of Family Fun Day is a disappointment.
Family Fun Day, part of the 2013 'Ding' Darling Days festival, is cancelled. PHOTO PROVIDED.
"Family Fun Day has the highest attendance for the event," she said. "It's on a Sunday and everything is free. Tons of kids and families come."
Organizers are now hoping that Congress settles its differences by the debt ceiling deadline on Oct. 17; otherwise they will have to cancel the entire event. "Ding" Darling Days has been a major Sanibel Island festival for the last 23 years and Vertesch said this is the first year it has faced cancellations because of a federal government shutdown.
"This event brings in 5,000 people and we will definitely have an economic impact on the island by not having people come, paying tolls, eating in restaurants, shopping in stores, and shopping in the 'Ding' Darling store that benefits the refuge," said Vertesch. "People look forward to it every year."
According to U.S. Fish & Wildlife, some 200 field stations in the Southeast Region have been impacted by the lack of funding, meaning that the public hasn't had access to refuges, fish hatcheries, ecological services and field offices.
"Cancellations of wildlife-related recreational activities including hunting, fishing, and environmental education are being evaluated as the shutdown continues and decisions are being made based on logistical requirements and the time needed to support them," said Joyce Palmer, deputy refuge manager, in a press release.
Visitors planning a trip to Sanibel Island for "Ding" Darling Days should visit dingdarlingdays.com or dingdarlingsociety.org for updates on the event.
Additional information also will be posted as it becomes available.