The International Crane Foundation will hold its annual Cranes of the World Festival on Saturday to promote the conservation of cranes and their ecosystems around the world.
The festivities will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will include numerous activities for visitors of all ages, including guided tours, arts and crafts and face painting.
Interpretive Programs Manager Andy Bingle said the festival is a way to engage families and raise awareness about crane conservation efforts locally and internationally.
“It’s wonderful to have everyone out here,” Bingle said. “We want to teach people what they can do both directly and indirectly to protect cranes and their ecosystems.”
Guided tours will take place throughout the day during which visitors can learn about crane species from all over the world and see them firsthand. The Cranes of the World Tour examines 15 different species and takes about two hours. The Spirit of Africa Tour explores the four African crane species and runs about an hour. Both tours leave from the Cudahy Visitor Center.
Naturalist, humorist and educator David Stokes will return for this year’s festival and take the stage at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. at the Wattled Crane Amphitheatre. Stokes is a regional naturalist who uses live animals in his performances. Visitors can expect to hear songs, stories and see a variety of animals.
“He has all of these snakes that he wraps around his head and all these turtles and other animals,” Bingle said. “It’s a jam-packed presentation with information on wetland animals that cranes use to survive.”
Interpretive Naturalist Intern Savanna Dahl said she’s looking forward to the question-and-answer session with crane research and care staff taking place from 12:15 p.m. to 12:45 p.m. at the Whooping Crane Exhibit. Visitors can ask staff members questions about wild and captive cranes.
“I’m excited to hear from a combination of the staff here that I don’t normally get to work with,” she said.
Dahl also noted that she’s excited to see Hope, a 9-foot-tall whooping crane mascot that was made by the same company responsible for Big Bird from Sesame Street. Hope will be at the Cudahy Visitor Center from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
“She’s our giant whooping crane mascot that you can’t not be excited for,” Dahl said. “She doesn’t talk – she has a handler with her that gives out whooping crane information.”
Dahl has worked as Hope’s handler before and, along with providing crane information for visitors, she also taught Hope how to do the Macarena.
Lunch will be provided from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. by the Friends of Muraviovka Park, a nonprofit group that supports crane conservation in far eastern Russia. Visitors can purchase a bag lunch for $7 and eat while watching the cranes.