2013 Whooping Crane Festival – IT’S A WRAP!

The 2013 Whooping Crane Festival has drawn to a close and what a weekend it was! Every event was a huge success, from the tours at Necedah Wildlife Refuge and the International Crane Foundation, to the Friday night dinner with a wonderful talk by keynote speaker Kenn Kaufman, to the Festival itself on Saturday. None of the events could have happened without the efforts of Operation Migration’s devoted volunteers!

On Tuesday, volunteers and supporters from Wisconsin and beyond began gathering in Princeton, Green Lake, Berlin and surrounding communities. The Festival offers an opportunity for OM supporters, Whooping crane enthusiasts, those interested in wildlife conservation, and those just curious about those “white birds” and “trikes” that they see around the marsh to all come together for a common cause: to save a species. The love of wildlife and conservation is palpable.

The Festival opened on Friday with a tour at Necedah Wildlife Refuge in Juneau County, Wisconsin, where several pairs of Whooping cranes, uncountable Sandhill cranes, and many other birds were observed by the over 40 people who attended. Weary but happy, many of these folks then attended Friday night’s lovely dinner at Tuscumbia Country Club.

After a delicious dinner, volunteer Doug Pellerin was awarded with OM’s Volunteer of the Year award. Doug works tirelessly as a costumed handler and organizing visits to the White River Marsh viewing blind. He travels two hours each day to reach the marsh and we can’t think of anyone more deserving than Doug.

Following Doug’s award, Joe Duff was presented with a lovely framed set of feathers to commemorate the 20th anniversary of his first flight with birds. The feathers were carved from wood by artist Thomas Tyer’s and represent the four species that Joe has flown with over the past 20 years: Canada goose, Trumpeter swans, Sandhill cranes and of course, Whooping cranes.

joes feathers

Next the diners were treated to a fascinating look at the dynamics of bird-flight by extreme birder, author, and conservationist Kenn Kaufman.

Kenn opened his talk by trying to describe his feelings when, earlier that day, he flew with OM’s Joe Duff during the training session. The weather couldn’t have been better for all the photographers and enthusiasts who lined the flyover site on Mile Road to see the birds fly against a bright, blue, Wisconsin sky. Kenn’s wife, Kimberly, an expert birder in her own right was in the crowd on Mile Road watching Kenn and was overcome with emotion at what she was witnessing.

After two days spent with the team and our volunteers, Kenn later posted this on his Twitter feed:


Thank you Kenn and Kimberly for taking the time out of your very busy schedules to join us!

Early Saturday morning volunteers converged at the Berlin Conservation Club to prepare for the all-day festival. With only 3 hours to set up the silent auction, merchandise tables, vendor booths, and a pancake breakfast, the volunteers got the job done and CraneFest 2013 opened right on time.

The speaker program included very informative presentations by Pat Fisher from The Feather bird rehabilitation center, who along with Virginia and Don presented several birds on the glove for the crowd. Next up was Craniac Shelly Taliaferro who educated the audience about Natural Selection in Darwin’s Finches in Response to a Parasitic Fly (Philornis downsi). Tom Schultz, volunteer costumed crane handler presented a program titled “Yes, there ARE other birds at White River Marsh.”

Dr. John French, Research Manager at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center discussed the role Patuxent plays in the Whooping Crane reintroduction and Joe Duff presented his flying with cranes program to the crowd before the festival wrapped up.

When the silent auction ended at 2:15pm, excited bidders rushed into the tent to see who would take home each of the donated items on display.

Sunday’s training was a washout as rain moved across Wisconsin, but that didn’t stop folks from visiting the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo. All 15 of the world’s species of cranes are on display at ICF, but for this audience, the highlight is, of course, the Whoopers.

None of these programs would have been a reality without the volunteers who labored to make them possible! OM extends sincere thanks to Bob and Mary Vethe, Charlotte and Tom Mullen, and Ella and Charlie Moyse, Colleen Chase, Cindy Loken, Laura Rowan, Jo-Anne Bellemer, Mako and Doug Pellerin, Jana Lood, Jayne Gulbrand, Det and Brig Schmidt, Paula Lambertz, Claire Timm, Mike and Jandi Deline, Lori Verhagan and Jenny Gibbs, and especially to Christy Smith for her masterful leadership as CraneFest committee chair. 

We can’t thank you enough for your tireless efforts over the past few months to help organize and carry out the 3-day Whooping Crane Festival!

Check out the Photo Gallery to see some photos from the festival!

Share Button


  1. Margie Tomlinson September 17, 2013 3:18 pm

    Thank you so much, Heather, for this report on CraneFest 2013!!! I really started having a very emotional reaction to it, too, since I was unable to attend this year! It sounds sooo good, and I really like the award you came up with for Joe for his 20th Anniversary of flying with the birds! It is beautiful, and so touching! Would have loved to have seen his reaction to it in person! So glad the CraneFest was a great success! Hopefully next year I can be there again! Thanks to everyone who made it so wonderful!

  2. Judy September 17, 2013 3:12 pm

    Overcome with emotion describes the way these beautiful birds and the people who work with them will effect you. God bless you.