Winning artwork chosen for prairie chicken festival

PNT Staff Report

MILNESAND — A watercolor painting by Ranchos de Taos artist Valerie Graves has been selected as the winner of the 2006 High Plains Prairie Chicken Festival poster contest. Graves will receive $300 for her winning artwork of lesser prairie chickens at sunrise, which will be reproduced as a poster and distributed at the festival April 7-9 in Milnesand.

People who want to participate in the festival are encouraged to register soon, as the 100 available spots are expected to be filled before the April 1 signup deadline. Those who register before March 15 will be eligible for an “early bird” prize of a photograph of a lesser prairie chicken. Registration is limited because of the sensitivity of the lesser prairie chicken during the breeding season. The $80 per person fee covers all field trips, five meals and a poster.

The festival is organized by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, in cooperation with the Nature Conservancy of New Mexico and the Grasslands Charitable Foundation. Festival headquarters is Milnesand, a small crossroads community 30 miles south of Portales. Festival participants have opportunities to watch and photograph lesser prairie chickens as they perform their colorful mating rituals on traditional booming grounds called leks. Other field trips include area birding, conservation, ecology and archaeology tours.

Registration forms and more information about the festival can be downloaded and printed from the department Web site at www.wildlife.state.nm.us/recreation/prairie_ckn/index.htm. For more information, contact Dawn Davis, lesser prairie chicken biologist, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish at 762-5127 or 476-8000 or e-mailto: dawn.davis@state.nm.us.