Not easily grounded

Whooping Crane Festival committee members Carol and Greg Bielski are ready for another fun filled festival. Joe Schulz photo

by Joe Schulz

Each year, Princeton’s Whooping Crane Festival educates folks about the importance of preserving the endangered species.

But this year, it will do so without the help of one of the bird’s biggest allies.

Operation Migration pioneered an aircraft-guided migration method, where a pilot would fly an ultralight plane down to Florida with a group of cranes to teach them migration routes, according to the organization’s website.

The ultralight used to be displayed during the festival, and members of Operation Migration would help promote and put on the festival.

The site noted ultralight migration ended in 2015 when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a document that said the method was “too artificial.”

“We continued work for another three years based upon our belief that the goal of a self-sustaining Eastern Migratory Population of whooping cranes was attainable. However, with new management directives authorized by the Whooping Crane Recovery Team and implemented by Region 3 of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, we no longer believe this goal to be achievable,” Operation Migration Co-founder Joe Duff wrote in a statement, explaining the organization’s decision to dissolve.

Operation Migration may not believe its goal to be attainable anymore, but that isn’t stopping the Princeton Whooping Crane Festival committee as it will host the event once again Friday, Sept. 13 to Sunday, Sept. 15.

“We’ve lost some key players,” committee member Carol Bielski said of losing Operation Migration. To compensate for that loss, the festival has partnered with Marsh Haven Nature Center of Waupun.

Bielski noted Marsh Haven has helped promote this year’s festival and shares the goal of promoting wildlife conservation.

The festival kicks off Friday with a field trip to Marsh Haven Nature Center in Waupun. Those attending the trip will leave the triangle parking lot on Water Street in Princeton at 9 a.m.

The field trip costs $12, and tickets may be purchased at

Friday’s festivities will be capped with a kickoff dinner at 5:30 p.m. at American Legion Post 306 in Green Lake.

The dinner will feature a presentation by International Crane Foundation Crane Research Coordinator Anne Lacy, who will give an update on the whooping crane reintroduction effort.

Tickets to Saturday’s dinner may be purchased for $35 at

Saturday will feature a smorgasbord of conservation-themed activities.

The day begins with a hike through White River Marsh from 6:30 to 8:30 a.m., guided by Green Lake Bird and Nature Club founders Tom and Wendy Schultz.

Folks participating in the hike are asked to meet at Crane Gate in White River Marsh, which is located around a mile east of Highway D on White River Road, north of Princeton.

Princeton Public School will be the hub for the rest of Saturday’s activities, as it will host Marsh Haven’s animals, multiple speakers, artisans and vendors.

Marsh Haven Nature Center Executive Director Renee Wahlen, pictured with an owl, will give a presentation discussing the decline in the monarch butterfly population and explain ways folks can be better stewards of the environment Saturday, Sept. 14 at 11 a.m. in Princeton Public School. submitted photo

Artisan craft vendors will sell their wares in the school gymnasium from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., with a few outside the main entrance of the school.

Children’s Edu-tainer David Stokes will perform two shows, one at 10 a.m. and one at 1 p.m.

Each is 45-minutes and is dedicated to educating children about animals who share habitats with cranes. Each of Stokes’ performances will feature live animals.

Marsh Haven Executive Director Renee Wahlen will discuss the decline in the monarch butterfly population and explain ways the public can be better stewards of the environment at 11 a.m.

Lunch will be served by the Princeton Lions Club from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

A kid’s area will be set up where children can build a bird house, paint garden stakes, get their faces painted and create crafts.

Bartels’ Chainsaw Carvings owner Dave Bartel will give carving demonstrations and sell his carvings all day.

Rounding out the day’s activities is a wrap-up party at 6 p.m. at VFW Post 01452 on Farmer Street in Princeton.

The party will feature all-you-can-eat pasta catered by Christiano’s.

Admission to Saturday’s party is $16 and tickets may be purchased at

Crane enthusiasts can wrap  up the weekend Sunday with a wine tour and tasting at noon at Vines and Rushes.

Tickets for the wine tour cost $10 and may be purchased at

Bielski stressed the importance of preserving the whooping crane, noting there are about 849 in the world and 163 live in captivity.

“They’re a beautiful bird and whatever affects them, affects our marshes, our wetlands and everything else,” Bielski said.