New Orleans has Mardi Gras, New York has the ball drop on New Year’s Eve, and Hinckley has the buzzards!
Hinckley has what you ask? Buzzards!
My current hometown of Hinckley, Ohio lies twenty-five miles south of Cleveland and is known worldwide as the one place the buzzards faithfully return to each year on March 15. The town has celebrated the buzzard’s return every year since 1957 and their arrival signals the start of spring.
The buzzard, a common name for the turkey vulture, is a large bird with a bald head and red beak. Flocks can be spotted floating in the air high above the town, their wings trimmed in silver. It is also the mascot for a local radio station, 100.7 WMMS.
Back to my question at the top of this post: what do vampires and buzzards have in common?
Both play integral roles in my novel, The Descendant.
When I started writing The Descendant, I opted to use my hometown as the inspiration for Allison Carmichael’s fictional hometown, Buzzard Hill. I exaggerated the buzzard theme in the book. The street Allison lives on is named Peace Eagle Pass; peace eagle is a nickname for the buzzard since it doesn’t harm living creatures (it lives mostly on road kill). There’s also a coffee shop in the book named Buzzard’s Brew. Neither that street nor the coffee shop exist.
And in The Search, Book 2 in The Descendant Vampire Series, you’ll see a scene that includes the annual Buzzard’s Day celebration. Hinckley celebrates by throwing a pancake breakfast and hosting a craft fair. And in the Cleveland Metroparks, at the spot named the Buzzard’s Roost, there will be an official spotter on the look out for the arrival of the first buzzard. This person is responsible for logging the time of the sighting.
In The Search, I exaggerate the festivities and combine it with folklore about the Great Hinckley Hunt. Here, why don’t you have a peek! Keep in mind that this is an unedited excerpt. I hope you enjoy it. Be on the look out for The Search later this year!
Happy Buzzard’s Day!!!
Unedited Excerpt from The Search:
Barricades blocked the roads immediately around Buzzard Hill Town Square. The streets were bustling with people who were bundled up for the elements and sipping hot beverages to keep warm. What in the heck is going on, I thought to myself. The parking lots for the church and the local watering hole were full with parked cars. A police officer directed traffic back down the street. I pulled the truck off onto the side of the road and put it in park. I reached into my jacket and grabbed my phone. I unlocked the phone to see what date it was – March 15. “Terrific,” I muttered. It was the Annual Buzzard’s Day Festival.
The tiny town of Buzzard Hill celebrated the buzzards’ return each year on March 15. Buzzards, which were also known as Mother Nature’s garbage collectors, feed only on dead animals. It is said that the buzzards have been returning to Buzzard Hill since 1818 when they were first attracted to the area by the plethora of animals that had been killed. Local farmers had lined the town’s perimeter and slowly moved inward, driving the predatory animals that had been attacking their livestock to a single location where they were killed. The abundant food source attracted the buzzards and then they seemed to make their home here on the rocky ledges in the parks. They leave in the winter for warmer climates with more food sources but unfailingly return to this town each year on March 15 and the residents didn’t miss a beat. They grabbed onto this marketing opportunity and ran with it. Everything in the town was named after something buzzard-related. There was Buzzards Brew Coffee House, Scavengers Bar and Grille, and every street within the town’s limits was named accordingly. The street Matt and I had lived on was called Peace Eagle Pass in a nod to the creature’s peacefulness in not attacking living creatures. And of course there was this annual celebration.
I exited the pickup and walked down the road toward the festivities. A banner hung over the square that announced the annual celebration. Several bonfires blazed in metal barrels providing temporary warmth to the mortals who had to have been absolutely freezing on this frigid morning. The sound of chainsaws filled the air as artists chipped their way through blocks of ice in an attempt to win the award for the best buzzard ice sculpture. Vendor filled tents lined the square selling all sorts of buzzard-related paraphernalia. Temporary shuttle stops were placed on the four corners to pick up people and take them to the Buzzard’s Roost, the official location for the buzzard’s return located in the park. Bird watchers camped out there for their chance to be the first person to spot the return of a buzzard and win a cash prize. The air was cold, so much so that it smelled like an ice skating rink. The coldness carried the fragrances of the fires, gas and oil from the chainsaws, hot chocolate and burnt marshmallows and something else. The smell triggered a growl from my stomach and I darted behind Scavengers, as far away from all of the people as I could possibly get at the moment.