Purple haze: festival celebrates the return of thousands of martins to downtown Richmond, Va. | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Purple haze: festival celebrates the return of thousands of martins to downtown Richmond, Va.

FILE - In a July 26, 2008 file photo, onlookers gawk as thousands of purple martins arrive at the 17th Street Farmers' Market in downtown Richmond, Va. The birds roost in a line of Bradford pear trees just north of the Farmers' Market, on 17th Street. The arrival of the birds has spawned the first purple martin festival, called "Gone to the Birds." (AP Photo/Richmond Times-Dispatch, P. Kevin Morley, File)
August 02, 2012 - 6:40 AM

RICHMOND, Va. - Virginia is for lovers — and thousands of purple martins.

The birds have selected a row of trees in Richmond to spend the past six summers, and the city is celebrating their stay this year with a festival.

The birds were once scorned for the mess they made, but now the city is embracing them. "Gone to the Birds" will be held Saturday. Bartenders will serve up "Purple Martinis," restaurants are going to offer discounts and guides will take birders on tours of this urban aviary.

The purple martins roost in a one-block section of downtown Richmond. Their synchronized mass movements can be seen on weather radar.

It's a mystery as to why the roughly 14,000 birds selected 15 Bradford pear trees in a crowded entertainment district.

News from © The Associated Press, 2012
The Associated Press

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