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Eagle Days attracts tourists to southeast Iowa

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People braved the cold to watch dozens of bald eagles along the Mississippi riverfront Sunday afternoon at the 36th annual Eagles Day,

Organizers said it's a day that always draws a big crowd.

"Eagles are mesmerizing to watch," Kirk Brandenberger with the Keokuk Area Convention and Tourism Bureau said. "They're so big. They have a seven foot wing span."

Perched up on trees and flying along the Mississippi River, everyone wanted to get a glimpse of eagles in their natural habitat.

"You go anywhere and you're like oh, there's an eagle," Carthage resident Lindsay Rupert said. "They are gigantic, but awesome."

Organizers said eagles flock to Keokuk at this time every year, due to the hydroelectric plant on the dam.

"It always lets warm water out, so it never freezes along this stretch of river," Brandenberger said. "We also have a good roosting area for the eagles across the river, so this is a good gathering place for the eagles."

The activities continued inside the River City Mall.

Many state agencies set up booths, including Iowa State University's Insect Zoo.

"I'm here with my fiance and my son, he's 16 months," Rupert said. "We came out here last year too, even though he was too little to know what's going on but we always bring him out to see what's going on."

Rupert said she enjoys the crowd that Eagles Day brings.

"The Eagles Day crowd usually brings in a lot of respectful people, so it's nice," Rupert said.

Employees at local stores in the mall said the crowd trickles into their stores, making for a big weekend of revenue.

Organizers said they depend on this weekend, as it’s a big boost for the local economy.

They said despite the cold weather that’s moved in, it still brought in about four to five thousand people.

It's an event organizers said is also rare chance to watch bald eagles in their natural habitat.

"They're just a magnificent bird and to watch them feed and grab fish away from each other," Brandenberger said. "It's just mesmerizing."

Kara Biernat

Kara Biernat is a MultiMedia Journalist for WGEM News.

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