Fourth annual Yampa Valley Crane Festival to kickoff Thursday

Audrey Dwyer
A sedge of cranes takes flight from a field near Steamboat Springs. The birds are a welcome sight in the Steamboat Springs area and will be celebrated Aug. 29 to Sept. 1 at the Yampa Valley Crane Festival.
John F. Russell

— The migratory greater sandhill cranes have many charismatic features.

They are one of the oldest living species of birds on earth, they dance, they mate for life and their call is hard to forget.

These tall, gray-bodied, crimson-capped creatures that breed in open wetlands, fields and prairies throughout North America will be celebrated this weekend for the fourth year of the Yampa Valley Crane Festival.

The four-day festival will feature viewings, workshops, exhibitions, lectures and family activities relating to the sandhill cranes that frequently migrate through the Yampa Valley.

This weekend’s events will kickoff at 6 p.m. Thursday in Library Hall at the Bud Werner Memorial Library with the Crane Coloring Contest award ceremony. Then, there will be a documentary film screening of “Winged Migration” at 6:30 p.m.

Over 80 volunteers and 20 local organizations have given of their time and efforts to make the festival a success this year.

“Cranes are the ambassador species for conservation,” said Nancy Merrill, one of the event’s main organizers. “People love cranes. But this festival is really not just about the cranes, it’s about all of the other birds and wildlife that share a habitat with the cranes. If people get excited and want to conserve the crane, it has a synergistic effect and impacts many species of birds and wildlife.”

On Friday, the festival will feature a guided bird walk from 3 to 4:30 p.m. with Ted Floyd, editor of “Birding” magazine, the flagship publication of the American Birding Association. There will also be a reception and gallery show with nature photographer John Fielder at the Depot Art Center from 5 to 7 p.m.

A visually captivating display of crane yard art will be on display on the library lawn all weekend, culminating with a silent auction where the art will be sold to the highest bidder.

On Saturday, there will be a sunrise crane viewing with keynote speaker Paul Tebbel, executive director of the Effie Yeaw Nature Center in California and previous the manager/director of the Lillian Annette Rowe Sanctuary owned by the National Audubon Society. There will also be a photography workshop with Abby Jensen and Gerhard Assenmacher, a nature/bird walk at the top of Thunderhead and a lecture in Library Hall on “The Private Live of Sandhill Cranes.”

Merrill said new additions this year include a nature journal workshop with Susan DeWardt and the HawkQuest’s live raptors presentations. Attendees will have a chance to see a live hawk, owl, falcon and eagle up close and learn about each of these birds.

“It’s a perfect time of year for people to get together and take part in this event,” said Van Graham, who is a retired wildlife biologist who worked for the Colorado Division of Wildlife (now Colorado Parks and Wildlife) for 32 years. “People can learn quite a bit about the local cranes, and this gives people a chance to see them more up close and personal.”

By offering a variety of events both indoors and out with different topics, Merrill hopes the festival will attract a wide range of ages and interests.

“We are trying to be as creative as we can be to help people appreciate what we have here and to encourage people to want to conserve what we have,” Merrill said.

For a full schedule of events visit

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1

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