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Crane organization delays grand opening of renovated Baraboo headquarters until next spring
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Crane organization delays grand opening of renovated Baraboo headquarters until next spring


After almost two years of being closed for extensive renovations, the International Crane Foundation had planned to unveil its Baraboo headquarters on Saturday.

The coronavirus pandemic had other ideas.

ICF announced this week that it would cancel the grand opening due to construction delays caused by COVID-19 and wouldn’t reschedule until next spring in light of a potential surge of infections this fall.

“It’s really disappointing,” said Chief Operating Officer Kim Smith. “I mean, we were really psyched about bringing people to the site. It’s just gorgeous, you know, and we miss seeing people out there.”

While the general public won’t be able to see the conservation organization’s new exhibits and cranes in person, they can get a virtual glimpse next month. According to spokeswoman Pamela Seelman, ICF will live stream a virtual celebration called “Let’s Whoop it Up!” starting at 7 p.m. July 23 that will give a sneak peek at the $10 million renovations.

Hosted by President and CEO Rich Beilfuss and co-founder George Archibald in the new welcome center, the event will include a virtual auction, a visit from the foundation’s mascot, highlights of ICF’s work in Asia, Africa and North America and “several surprises,” according to Seelman. The organization, dedicated to protecting cranes — some of the most endangered birds in the world — and their habitat, is headquartered in rural Baraboo but works across five continents.

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The 10-acre-plus site closed in November of 2018 for extensive renovations, including a new welcome center with an expanded gift shop, 10 new crane exhibits with water features, murals and a new “Cranes and Culture area,” according to a news release. It is the only place in the world where guests can see all 15 species of cranes at once.


Artist Jay Jocham works on a Eurasian crane mural Oct. 29 at the International Crane Foundation's Baraboo headquarters. The organization had planned to unveil the site in a grand opening Saturday after undergoing a $10 million renovation, but the event was cancelled due to COVID-19 and will be rescheduled for spring of 2021.

Smith said construction is just finishing up now, causing a delay in planting prairie plants and grasses, which need time to grow before the birds can be introduced to their new homes. The cranes also need time to acclimate, so the exhibits wouldn’t be ready until September, at which time COVID-19 could be in a second wave. The headquarters would also typically close to the public for the season on Oct. 31.

“So we decided, you know, with the forecast for COVID to potentially come into a second wave this fall, why don’t we just do a grand opening when we can welcome hopefully a lot of people to our site in the spring,” Smith said.

ICF might offer members an in-person preview of the new headquarters this fall, but that depends on the virus’ progression, Smith said.

“It is gorgeous and we can hardly wait for people to come see it,” she said. “We’ll try to get them out as soon as we possibly can.”

Follow Susan Endres on Twitter @EndresSusan or call her at 745-3506.

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