Crane Coalition hosts first fundraiser celebrating Sandhill cranes of the Yampa Valley |

Crane Coalition hosts first fundraiser celebrating Sandhill cranes of the Yampa Valley

Cranes can be seen through the trees as they fly high above the Yampa Valley west of Steamboat Springs Tuesday, March 28, 2023. The cranes have returned despite the deep snow that still covers most of the valley floor.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Perfectly timed with the return of the greater Sandhill crane, the Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition is hosting its first-ever fundraiser. 

The nonprofit is calling all craniacs to the Crane Migration Celebration on Friday, March 31, at the Depot Art Center. 

Attendees will enjoy a social and educational evening while eating tapas inspired by areas along the migration path of the Sandhill cranes that appear in Steamboat Springs and the Rocky Mountains. Steamboat Folk will entertain with live music as well. 

Additionally, President Nancy Merrill and Executive Director Erin Gelling will speak to teach attendees a little about the big birds that hang out in the valley. 

“We hope people have a good time. We hope they learn a little bit about the organization and about Sandhill cranes,” Gelling said. “This is the time when cranes are returning to the Yampa Valley so we’re focusing on a migration theme and showcasing the migration paths of cranes celebrating their return to the Yampa Valley.”

After more than a decade of relying on volunteers, donations and grants, the nonprofit is shifting to fundraise through events, with this being the first. Tickets are $85 and can be purchased at ahead of the event, which kicks off at 5:30 p.m.

As the group and its efforts expanded, Gelling was hired as the first full-time employee two years ago. In January, she became executive director and the crane coalition continues to grow and needs more support.

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“Obviously we want to raise more money for all the programs that we do, and we expanded a lot of our programs the last couple years,” Gelling said. “But it’s also a way for us to increase awareness about Sandhill cranes and to teach new people about these iconic birds of the valley.”

While events like Friday’s celebration may help the coalition raise money, it still heavily relies on volunteers to execute its programming.

“We’re always looking for volunteers to help out with different events that we do,” Gelling said.

More cranes are arriving every day despite deep snow. They’ve mostly settled in Moffat County and west Routt County where there is less snow. 

They will continue to fly into the area through the spring before settling into their nests to lay eggs and raise their young. 

Keep tabs on a local crane couple later in the year when the coalition installs its nest camera

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