A whooping good time

Crane festival returns Sept. 10 to Princeton

A whooping crane lands in a marshy area. The type of bird has seen a steady rise over the past several years.                  submitted photo

by Hannah Tetzlaff

In the 1940s, the number of whooping cranes were reduced to just 15 birds.

However, after decades of support and intervention by Operation Migration and the International Crane Foundation, the cranes have received new life.

Now, with its sixth-annual Whooping Crane Festival Saturday, Sept. 10, Princeton is celebrating the reemergence of the endangered bird.

“There are fewer than 600 whooping cranes in existence, so the fact that we are blessed by chance in Princeton, Wis. to see a whooping crane is very special,” Princeton Chamber of Commerce Director Beth Pelland said. “… We’re very proud to have the Whooping Crane Festival here in Princeton.”

Pelland noted the community hosts additional activities from Sept. 8 to 11, with the main free festival taking place Sept. 10 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Princeton Public School.

The festival showcases a range of community involvement from avid birders to young Princeton students.

Princeton High School’s Foods Class students launch the festival with a pancake breakfast at 8 a.m., followed by several guest speakers, a craft fair, silent auction and other kid-friendly activities.

There also will be food tents available throughout the day, which includes a pig roast.

A highlight of this year’s celebration is a new 30-foot origami whooping crane that Princeton students will create Sept. 8 and 9 under the direction of Mako Pellerin.

The crane will be on display all day Saturday in the gymnasium.

According to Princeton Whooping Crane Festival Chairman Carol Bielski, the paper crane is reminiscent of when Operation Migration guided the cranes with ultralight aircraft to winter migration destinations. “With a 30-foot wingspan, [the paper crane] will be about the size of the ultralight plane that used to be used to migrate the birds,” she said “It’s a big project.”

The ultralight aircraft also will be on display at the festival.

Not only will the students build the origami bird, but a fourth grader also designed the origami team’s shirts.

“Hailey Treder is our winner of our T-shirt contest,” Pelland said. “She’s going to be going into fourth grade and she’s an amazing little artist that did the artwork that will go on the T-shirts for the kids that will be putting together the crane.”

Another highlight for kids is David Stokes’ Edu-Trainer Interactive Show. Taking place from 10 a.m. to noon, it incorporates frogs, turtles, snakes and other creatures found in the crane’s habitat.

Children may participate and enjoy additional festivities such as birdhouse building and the radio tracking activity, which is similar to how Operation Migration observes cranes.

“All the birds that [Operation Migration] handles have transmitters on them and that’s how they track the birds,” Bielski said. “They know where they’re migrating, where they’re hanging out, if they’re still living, hopefully. If we have the kids doing that, learning how they’re tracked, then I think they’ll have a fun time with that.”

Adults also may learn more about the whooping cranes and celebrate their existence by attending the guest speaker sessions from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Among the programs are Patricia Manthey discussing trumpeter swans and their success, Bev Paulan and Joe Duff on flying with cranes, Pat Fisher on raptor rehabilitation (includes live raptors); and Duff on the transition year for the whooping crane reintroduction program.

With so many events and speakers, individuals make reservations a year in an advance for the festival.

“The enthusiasm of everyone that shows up there is just unbelievable,” Pelland said. “They are passionate about these birds; they’re passionate about keeping these birds in existence and on this planet.”

Though many people attend the festival, Pelland and Bielski wish to see the event continue to grow.

“Our future plans for the event are to expand it,” Pelland said. “Part of that growth is we want these birds to be around. I want my kids and grandkids to be able to see these birds, and my great-grandkids to see these birds, and that can only happen with increasing the knowledge that people have.”

Individuals can celebrate the continued existence of the whooping cranes, while also discovering new facts about the birds at Princeton’s Whooping Crane Festival.

For more information about the cranes or festival, visit Princeton.com or operationmigration.org.