75 Years



Celebrating the Refuge’s 75th Anniversary

In 1945, out of fear for the wildlife and wetlands that claimed most of Sanibel Island, Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling succeeded in petitioning for the creation of the Sanibel National Wildlife Refuge. 

Seventy-five years later, J.N. “Ding” Darling NWR, which adopted its creator’s name in 1967 following his death, celebrates its rich history and legacy on December 1, 2020. DDWS is helping to support a daytime celebration and will be hosting an evening gala to commemorate the refuge’s 75th anniversary.  

The daytime celebration, in combination with "Ding" Darling Day, will be free and open to the public. It will combine a day of safe family fun, live music, and special guests, while following CDC guidelines.  

The day's festivities then will culminate with a ticketed gala event. The 75th Anniversary Gala will harken back to the 1940s with a drive-in theater theme and visits from “Theodore Roosevelt” reprisor Joe Wiegand.  

Guests will safely enjoy live music and a program projected onto a drive-in style screen with audio broadcast to their cars. “Car hops,” wearing masks and other protective gear, will deliver food and drinks to guests. 

December 1 will be a once-in-a-lifetime celebration to remember and an occasion to look forward with optimism to the Refuge's future. To join in the memory-making by becoming a sponsor, contact Development Officer April Boehnen at 239-472-1100 ext. 4.

Tickets to the gala will go on sale the end of October. Space is limited to 70 cars, but there is no limit as to how many people can occupy each vehicle. 

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