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Carpenter holds raptor release

Marschall Smith releases a juvenile bald eagle back into the wild during the raptor release event at Carpenter Nature Center along the St. Croix River Saturday morning. Smith is the senior vice president for legal affairs at 3M. The 3M Foundation was the event's main sponsor. More than 2,000 area residents turned out to see the release. Hastings Star Gazette photo by Chad Richardson

More than 2,000 area residents turned out Saturday to watch eight birds of prey released back into the wild at the Carpenter Nature Center along the St. Croix River.

A broadwing hawk, a bald eagle and a red-tailed hawk were among the birds released. All were nursed back to health by the Raptor Center, housed at the University of Minnesota.

For Carpenter Nature Center, it's a unique opportunity to let nature impact the lives of those in attendance.

"With the nature center, we protect habitat, but teaching people is our key mission," said Jen Vieth, the development director at Carpenter. "Unless you are connected to nature, you're not going to protect it in the future. Watching a hawk or an eagle take its first flight back into nature is a pretty good connection. I heard a number of people talking about how they were teary-eyed, and things like that. That happens every year."

The event was sponsored by the 3M Foundation.

Vieth said approximately 75 volunteers helped to pull off the event. The Lions Club from Hastings, Bailey Nurseries and Tinucci's restaurant in Newport all played a key role, too, Vieth said.

"We get amazing support from the volunteers and from the businesses," she said.