9th annual crane festival goes virtual with nearly 30 videos | SteamboatToday.com
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9th annual crane festival goes virtual with nearly 30 videos

Cranes gather at fields off of Routt County Road 70 in Hayden before sunset.
Shelby Reardon

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — One beautiful thing about the global pandemic is nature’s ignorance of it. Regardless of COVID-19 cases, travel bans and mask mandates, the greater Sandhill cranes are still flocking to the Yampa Valley. 

For the ninth consecutive year, the Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition is hosting the Yampa Valley Crane Festival. In 2020, the festival will have one live event and 29 free videos for people to watch on a variety of topics. The videos will go live at coloradocranes.org/2020-festival on Sept. 3 and be accessible through the end of the year. 

“I’m really excited about almost all of them to be honest. We found it was a big challenge on the one hand, because we’ve never done anything like this before,” said Nancy Merrill, co-founder of the Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition and president of the board. “But on the other hand, it was a great opportunity for us to put all the information we have gathered over the years about the cranes … on tape and on video.”

Most videos pertain to the cranes and their ecology, calls and life cycle. Some others offer wildlife photography tips, a tour of the Carpenter Ranch homestead and a behind-the-scenes look at the crane festival. 

Typically, the festival includes a series of speakers, including a keynote address. All speakers scheduled to participate in this year’s festival have committed to coming back in 2021.

The keynote address will go on, though, via video. 

Van Graham, a board member for the Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition and former employee of the Division of Wildlife, will present “From Ice Age to the Present: A Brief History of Sandhill Cranes in Northwest Colorado.”

”He’s put together a history of Sandhill cranes that goes back to the Utes and even back further,” Merrill said. “Back to some of the ancient petroglyphs that are found with crane figures in them. It’s a really entertaining and informative history of cranes in our area.”

Crane yard art viewing will be the only live, in-person event. The art will be displayed on the lawn at Bud Werner Memorial Library in Steamboat Springs from 5 to 8 p.m. during the First Friday Artwalk on Sept. 4. People are required to wear masks and socially distance while viewing the art. 

This year, the auction to purchase the yard art will be online from Sept. 4 to 8 at 32auctions.com/craneyardart

With fewer in-person events, the Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition might gain fewer members and take in fewer donations this year. Those who wish to donate or become a member of the coalition can visit the festival website. 

Electronic live events

If the cranes cooperate, there will be a video, narrated by Birding magazine editor Ted Floyd. While it won’t be live, since the birds are unpredictable, Merrill said it will be close to real time.

“He has come out the last several years to our festival and led bird walks and given talks,” Merrill said. “He’s a name brand.” 

There will be a Zoom crane origami folding lesson and story event at 10 a.m. Sept. 4. The event is open to kids 10 and older, but they must be accompanied by an adult. To register, contact Janet Panebaker at panebake@gmail.com

Finding the cranes

Every year the highlight of the festival is finding and watching the cranes. There won’t be guided tours this year, but the Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition has published a list of the best places to potentially see cranes on the festival’s website.

“We encourage people to go out and see the cranes,” said Merrill. “We won’t be able to provide the usual commentary that we have, but we welcome people to write questions or call us with questions or email us with questions that may come up as they’re watching the cranes. The whole idea of the virtual festival is to keep cranes in people’s awareness to promote the fact that these special birds live in our valley and we’re very lucky to have them.”

All videos and information about the festival can be accessed at coloradocranes.org/2020-festival.

To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.


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