Crazy for Cranes: Festival of the Cranes 2019

Over 14,000 Sandhill Cranes along with several pairs of Whooping Cranes spend the winter each year at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge in Decatur. Despite the ongoing government shutdown, this year’s Festival of the Cranes will go on! In celebration of these long-legged and long-necked birds, Wheeler Wildlife Refuge Association hosts a two day event offering a variety of indoor and outdoor activities for experienced birders and anyone who would like to learn more about birding and other wildlife that call the Refuge home.

Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1938 by Executive Order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt as the first National Wildlife Refuge placed on a multi-purpose reservoir to provide habitat for wintering and migrating birds. Covering 35,000 acres, it attracts thousands of wintering waterfowl each year and is home to Alabama’s largest wintering duck population. The Refuge also supports the state’s largest concentration of Sandhill Cranes and the endangered Whooping Crane.

What is Festival of the Cranes?

Set for January 12-13, 2019, Festival of the Cranes takes place at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, and along with two days of nature walks, live raptors and special programs, there are additional activities just for kids.

Now in its sixth year, Festival of the Cranes has become a popular weekend activity for families near and far. During the two day event, guests are invited to visit the Observation Building to view thousands of Sandhill cranes along with several Whooping cranes, ducks, geese, raptors and perhaps a bald eagle from the comfort of the heated building. There are bleachers and spotting scopes available along with volunteers and staff standing by to answer questions.

Saturday, January 12th Activities

– 8:00 AM • Birding 101
Meet at the visitor center information desk
Join members of the Alabama Ornithological Society/Tennessee Valley Audubon Society for a beginner course in birding. Learn the basics of birding while walking along the grounds of the Visitor Center. $5 per person, participants are encouraged to wear comfortable walking shoes and to bring binoculars and a camera.

– 9:00 AM • David Akoubian Bear Woods Photography Workshop
Auditorium
David has been a photographer since 1972 when his father presented him with his first camera, but his career in photography started in 1992. David learned his craft originally as a painter and from his father who shares his love of nature and photography. Early in his career, he traveled with, learned from and taught beside some of the masters of nature photography including John Shaw, Art Wolfe, Galen Rowell, Bryan Peterson, Pat O’Hara and Rod Planck.

– 9:00 to 10:30 AM • Children’s Activities
Classroom
Calling all kids (regardless of age) to join 
in the fun educational activities – create a crane mask, crane puppet and crane origami and visits with the FWS Blue Goose and the ICF Whooping Crane mascots.


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– 9:00 to 11:00 AM • Creating Nature from Paper
Alabama Center for the Arts Visual Arts building 3M Room
The ACA is pleased to offer a free hands-on art activity limited to 20 participants on a first come, first serve basis. Learn to fold origami cranes and sculpt beautiful flowers using only paper and glue. All supplies provided. Participants will create two cranes and two types of flowers in this two-hour class.

– 9 AM to 3 PM • 5th Annual Juried Festival of the Cranes Exhibition
Alabama Center for the Arts Visual Arts building Walking Gallery
The Annual Juried Festival of the Cranes Exhibition will be on display from January 12 to February 22, 2019, with special weekend hours on Saturday, January 12, 9am-3pm.

– 10 AM to 3 PM • Crane Journal Workshop
Carnegie Visual Arts Center
Doug Baulos will be leading this free workshop where participants will create and experiment with a variety of handmade paper to create a small book examining whooping cranes. This workshop is come and go and is open to the public. Recommended to participants 12 years old and up.

– 10 AM to 4 PM • Night After Night O’Moon
Carnegie Visual Arts Center
This exhibit by Birmingham artist, Doug Balous, features an ecological installation inspired by Doug’s time spent at the Wheeler Wildlife Refuge, Japanese Inari Shrines and the Ikan Crane Center. Doug has 
collaborated with Alabama high school art
 students, Priceville Elementary kindergartners and artist Jerry Slayton for a portion of the exhibit to include whooping crane puppets, found nature elements and digital art.

– 10:30 AM & 3 PM • President Theodore Roosevelt as portrayed by Joe Wiegand
Auditorium
Joe Wiegand entertains audiences nationwide with his reprisal of President Theodore Roosevelt. As a one-man theater show, Joe’s T.R. shares stories full of adventure, laughter, and inspiration. T.R. will be in character throughout the day.

– 11 AM to 1 PM • Domino’s pizza lunch with drink and dessert
Classroom
$5 per person and all proceeds benefit future refuge programs.

– 11 AM & 1:30 PM • Auburn University Southeastern Raptor Center Presentation
Princess Theatre
The Southeastern Raptor Center presents its educational program to teach about birds of prey. See hawks, eagles, falcons and owls up close while learning about habitats, conservation and ecology.

– 12 PM • Discovering Alabama Whooping Crane Video
Auditorium
Join Dr. Doug Phillips for a very personal and beautiful visit with North America’s tallest and one of its most endangered bird.


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– 1:30 to 3 PM • Children’s Activities continues / Classroom

– 1:30 PM • Michael Graham Allen, flutist
Auditorium
Michael Graham Allen is the principal flutist, composer, and founder of the band COYOTE OLDMAN. An early researcher and builder of ancient flutes of North America, M.G. Allen has been a professional flute maker since the mid 1970’s.

– 6 PM • Ibex Puppetry Show / Princess Theatre (admission charged)

Sunday, January 13 Activities

– 7:00 AM • Nature Walk
Meet at the Visitor Center information Desk. Come early and join President Roosevelt on an early morning nature walk.

– 9:00 AM • David Akoubian Bear Woods Photography Workshop
Classroom
David has been a photographer since 1972 when his father presented him with his first camera, but his career in photography started in 1992. David learned his craft originally as a painter and from his father who shares his love of nature and photography. Early in his career, he traveled with, learned from and taught beside some of the masters of nature photography including John Shaw, Art Wolfe, Galen Rowell, Bryan Peterson, Pat O’Hara and Rod Planck.

– 9 AM • Michael Graham Allen, Flutist
Auditorium
Michael Graham Allen is the principal flutist, composer, and founder of the band COYOTE OLDMAN. An early researcher and builder of ancient flutes of North America, M.G. Allen has been a professional flute maker since the mid 1970’s.

– 10:30 AM • President Theodore Roosevelt as portrayed by Joe Wiegand
Auditorium
Joe Wiegand entertains audiences nationwide with his reprisal of President Theodore Roosevelt. As a one-man theater show, Joe’s T.R. shares stories full of adventure, laughter, and inspiration. T.R. will be in character throughout the day.


Advertisement. Content Continues Below.

– 11 AM to 3 PM • Night After Night O’Moon
Carnegie Visual Arts Center
This exhibit by Birmingham artist, Doug Balous, features an ecological installation inspired by Doug’s time spent at the Wheeler Wildlife Refuge, Japanese Inari Shrines and the Ikan Crane Center. Doug has 
collaborated with Alabama high school art
 students, Priceville Elementary kindergartners and artist Jerry Slayton for a portion of the exhibit to include whooping crane puppets, found nature elements and digital art.

– 1:30 PM • Auburn University Southeastern Raptor Center Presentation
Princess Theatre
The Southeastern Raptor Center presents its educational program to teach about birds of prey. See hawks, eagles, falcons and owls up close while learning about habitats, conservation and ecology.

– 1:30 to 3 PM • Children’s Activities
Classroom
Calling all kids (regardless of age) to join in the fun educational activities – create a crane mask, crane puppet and crane origami and visits with the FWS Blue Goose and the ICF Whooping Crane mascots.

– 1:30 PM • Discovering Alabama Whooping Crane Video
Auditorium
Join Dr. Doug Phillips for a very personal and beautiful visit with North America’s tallest and one of its most endangered bird.

– 3:00 PM • President Theodore Roosevelt Speaks!
Auditorium
Theodore Roosevelt was a soldier and statesman, explorer and scientist, historian and author. Our youngest president, he personified a vigorous nation on the cusp of the American Century. President Roosevelt will close out the 2019 Festival of the Cranes as only TR can do.

Festival of the Cranes 2019

When: January 12 – 13, 2019
Where: Wheeler Wildlife Refuge (map)
Cost: FREE – $5
View Website

For more information on the Festival of the Cranes, call Teresa Adams, supervisory ranger for Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, at 256.350.6639 or call Decatur Morgan County Tourism at 256.350.2028 or 800.232.5449.