Delivering hope

International Crane Foundation mascot Hope, a 9-foot-tall whooping crane, delivers meals to customers during the organization's share night Wednesday at Culver's in Baraboo. A portion of the event's sales were donated to the International Crane Foundation.

JAKE PRINSEN/News Republic

Nonperishable food items will earn donors a ticket to view and learn about protected bird species at the International Crane Foundation this weekend.

The Baraboo wildlife center is hosting its annual Good Neighbor Day on Saturday, during which donated food items will pass for the regular price of admission. Last year, the event gathered 205 pounds of food that was donated to the Baraboo Food Pantry.

“We’re wrapping up for the season, so this is a big thank you to the community for supporting us,” said ICF Interpretive Programs Manager Andy Bingle. He added the organization hopes to double its donations from last year, as Viking Village Foods in Reedsburg has offered to match all contributions.

The International Crane Foundation is the only place in the world where all 15 crane species can be seen in a single location. The organization’s headquarters in Baraboo serves as a gateway to international ecological work done by staff in more than 50 countries on five continents.

Good Neighbor Day will include several special events and activities. Local author Curt Meine is slated to discuss and read from his new book “The Driftless Reader” at 11 a.m. The book pieces together essays on the natural and cultural history of the Midwest region untouched by glaciers.

Meine, a research associate for the Crane Foundation, said his talk will focus on the background and inspiration for “Driftless Reader,” which includes a section on conservation efforts throughout the region.

“The Driftless Area has had an unusually rich history of conservation,” he said.

Signed copies of the book will be available for purchase. Meine also will speak about the book at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Village Booksmith in downtown Baraboo.

Crane Foundation visitors will have the opportunity to experience live exhibits and explore nature trails that wind through prairie, woodland and oak savanna ecosystems on the Crane Foundation property. Younger guests also may enjoy creating fall-themed enrichment “pies” for the birds, which aviculture staff will give to the cranes.

“They’re like little things the cranes can play on and are made out of different materials so the cranes can poke around them,” Bingle said.

Guided tours also will be held at 10 a.m. and 1 and 3 p.m., during which guests can learn about the different species of cranes and the foundation’s efforts to protect them around the world. Visitors can learn about the foundation’s $10 million renovation project as well.

Meine said local support makes the Crane Foundation’s global conservation efforts possible.

“We work all over the world all the time, but we wouldn’t be where we are and do what we do unless we had such a wonderful community of supporters right here at home,” he said. “This is our way of saying thank you and expressing our appreciation.”

Follow Jake Prinsen on Twitter @prinsenjake

Baraboo News Republic Reporter