Orland was a buzz on Saturday when not only the inaugural Queen Bee Festival took place, but the Honeybee Discovery Center opened its first exhibit. 

Terrie Salvagno-Barr, start up administrative director for the discovery center, said a local committee decided about a year ago that they wanted to host a Queen Bee Festival – Orland was named the Queen Bee Capital of North America in 2017. 

Around the same time, the Honeybee Discovery Center ended up bringing its facility to Orland and the old Farm Bureau building became available. So it was decided to open the center’s first exhibit on the same day as the festival, and the week also happened to be National Pollinator Week. 

“So we decided, let’s put the two together,” Salvagno-Barr said. 

She said they plan to make the Queen Bee Festival an annual event. 

The festival hosted a wide array of things for people to do, such as seeing the honey-oriented booths, perusing the various vendors, listening to live music and  viewing bee beard demonstrations. 

“We take three pounds of bees, which is about 10,000 bees, and we put them on a barber apron and surround a guy’s neck,” said Pat Heitkam, a local beekeeper. “... And we take those bees and herd them up and make a beard out of them. Someone sits in the tent and does that.”

Heitkam said they also talk about bees, what they do and how to deal with bee stings.

“Every once in a while you get an unfortunate sting, but it’s not too bad,” said Jerry Hightower, another local beekeeper. “It’s one of the reasons we’re doing this, to show how docile (bees) are and how we can interact with them without being afraid of them.”


Honeybee Discovery Center

During the Queen Bee Festival, people could see the Honeybee Discovery Center’s newly renovated building and view the first exhibit.

“The theme of this first show is really beekeeping, honoring beekeepers in our area,” said Kathy Borgogno, who has 30 years of experience with museums and came in to help with the museum part of the center.

The exhibit included collections of tools of the trade from beekeepers in the area.

One of the most popular aspects of the exhibit was the observation hive, she said, which featured live bees and a queen bee.

“People can do queen spotting and find her,” Borgogno said. “She can be found with a little tiny green dot on her … We want to really focus people on doing the things for the environment that are helpful and healthy for the bees.”

Gail Harris attended the festival and explored the center with her grandchildren on Saturday.

“I thought this is a huge ordeal for Orland and I wanted to show (my grandkids) what honeybees do,” Harris said. 

She said she passes the building everyday on her way to work and has been watching the transformation of the Farm Bureau building to what it is now.

“I was looking forward to seeing what they did to the inside of the building itself,” Harris said. 

The old Farm Bureau building on Walker Street is now the home of the discovery center’s administrative offices, Salvagno-Barr said. 

“So now we can have a team that’s going to work to do the fundraising to building the Honeybee Discovery Center that you see in the pictures,” she said.

The lot next to the building was purchased by Orland, Salvagno-Barr said, and will eventually house the full center and a virtual theater.

She said the board is still working on how to proceed. 

“If we want to get past all the technical, the groundwork, the first structure, putting in the gardens, we need about $2 million,” Salvagno-Barr said. 

She said part of the plan is also to put in a theater that’s a silo that when people enter, it’s as if they’re inside of a beehive.

“We may put that ahead and that won’t take as much but we haven’t really established what the budget is for that,” Salvagno-Barr said.

She said the first thing was to get an office in the building so they can start organizing their fundraising efforts.

The beekeepers who founded the Honeybee Discovery Center started planning it about 10 years ago, Salvagno-Barr said.

In that time, she said, they had begun fundraising, created artist renderings of what they want the center to look like and come a little ways toward the goals.

“Now that we have administrative offices, we expect that we’ll be able to make a lot more progress faster,” Salvagno-Barr said. 

She said right now, the exhibit will be closed until they can get together and figure out a schedule.

They are planning to set up some classes, start a beekeeping club and schedule times where teachers can bring their classes to go through the museum to learn about bees, she said.

“There (are) just a lot of great ideas, but we just got the admin staff, we just got the office so now we’re going to start laying out how we’re going to do this,” Salvagno-Barr said. “Everybody that is interested in our pollinators, teachers and educators to gardeners and people that might want to be beekeepers, keep their eyes open because we will have more information to follow.”

For updates and more information on the Honeybee Discovery Center, visit the Honeybee Discovery Center Facebook page or visit www.honeybeemuseum.org.

“It’s really neat that the United States will now have this Honeybee Discovery Center to honor beekeepers and to teach children, adults, everyone about beekeeping industry and the importance of our pollinators and our environment,” she said. 

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