As they have every year since 1957, people gathered before dawn Friday at Cleveland Metroparks’ Hinckley Reservation and scanned the sky.
They wanted to experience the return of the buzzards to the park, which traditionally signals the beginning of spring in Medina County.
“You get a bunch of wacko, crazy people who like to wake up this early,” said Jim Meinke, who’s been at almost every Buzzard Day since the celebration began in 1957.
Meinke quietly confided that he’s seen the buzzards in the area all week.
But it doesn’t count until the official buzzard spotter glimpses one March 15. As the legend goes, the turkey vultures don’t return until that day each year.
This year’s spotter was Sharon Hosko, who’s been attending since 1996, but was never the official spotter.
“I hope I find one before noon,” Hosko said about 7:45 a.m.
Hosko replaced Bob Hinkle, who was the spotter for 16 consecutive years before he retired this year.
Shivering and patient spectators — who came from as far away as California — excitedly watched every flapping creature, only to be disappointed by a goose or a crow instead.
But at 8:15 a.m., Hosko pointed to the treeline in the distance.
“Buzzard!” she shouted.
Eager attendees craned their necks to see the bird, which sank below the treeline a moment later. Few people got to see this buzzard.
It was 50 minutes later that the next buzzard made its debut — and this time, no one missed it.
The buzzard flew toward the crowd before doubling back, and spectators grew silent during its flight.
Among the crowd were Gary and Diane Zielski, of Broadview Heights, who attended for the first time.
“I finally get to knock Buzzard Day off my bucket list,” Gary Zielski said.
They said they missed seeing the first buzzard and stayed for the second.
“This is just one of those things I’ve wanted to do for years, and this year, we decided we were going,” Gary Zielski said.
Diane Zielski grinned at her husband.
“I only came for the breakfast,” she joked.
The buzzard-themed celebration continues 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the park. There will be music, food and crafts.
An all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast will be hosted 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday by the Hinckley Chamber of Commerce at Hinckley Elementary School, 1586 Center Road. The cost is $6.50 and $4 for children age 10 and younger.
Contact reporter Nick Glunt at (330) 721-4048 or firstname.lastname@example.org.