CraneFest Week – As Much As I Can Remember ;-)

When Heather and I arrived in Green Lake County on Monday, we hit the ground running along with the other Committee members representing both Operation Migration and the Festival’s host town of Princeton. So much has happened over the past 6 days I can hardly remember it all! Here’s a quick recap, in case you were thinking OM was taking a vacation before starting this year’s migration.

Tuesday morning was spent processing the last of the auction items. We opened packages, oohed and aahed over each and every wonderful contribution, and took photos of those that have since been added to our online auction on Facebook. This auction ends at noon on Friday, September 25th, so there’s still time to place your bids here, and be sure to watch for even more items to be added this week!

Since the rest of Tuesday is a blur, I’ll move on to Wednesday. Colleen, Heather, and I enjoyed a special privilege – we got to let the birds our for exercise on the runway! It’s hard to describe what it’s like when 4 foot tall birds run by you flapping their wings to take off on their own circuit. We watched them fly off toward the north and they disappeared into the fog – it was absolutely magical! And when they re-appeared and glided to us, landing gear down, they looked so prehistoric. I’m sure I grinned all the way through breakfast!

Then it was back to the Princeton Chamber of Commerce to stuff the “swag bags” that would be given to each registered Cranefest attendee. The Chamber has a perfect conference room for stuffing bags: several tables are arranged in a large square. All the items we laid out around the tables and a bevy (or was it a murder or a gulp) of committee members and volunteers went round and round, bag by bag, until something like 150 were chock full of information and goodies, and we were all dizzy! Some “stuffings” came from OM, some were donated by local businesses and organizations, and some were even donated by individual supporters.

I know we didn’t take the rest of Wednesday off, but for the life of me I can’t remember what the afternoon entailed. The evening, however, was memorable – Craniacs started to arrive and the excitement was palpable as hugs were exchanged when each car pulled in!

Thursday night was the Festival’s first official event, a welcome supper at Reilly’s Pub on Green Lake. The weather cooperated so that we had a beautiful evening on the outside patio overlooking the lake. The food and beverages – adult and “otherwise” – were great, but the best part was that we were all together sharing a common purpose – to celebrate the wonder of Whooping Cranes!

Friday was spent preparing for one of the Festival’s highlights, the Friday night dinner. Nearly 100 people attended to have a delicious dinner, bid on some beautiful auction items, and listen to a wonderful presentation by author and naturalist Stan Tekiela on “Uncommon Facts about Common Birds”. Mary O’Brien, who makes all of our costumes and serves on the Festival Committee, was surprised when seven “Tumes” surrounded her as she was presented with OM’s Volunteer of the Year award. Congratulations, Mary!

Let’s see, Saturday… Rumor has it the training flyover was awesome Saturday morning with around 100 people watching at “Mile Road and D”, aka Lois and Edward’s corner. Lois was presented with a giant birthday card signed by many, many Craniacs, but many of us missed it because we were at the Princeton school setting up for the all-day Festival. Each activity area had a crew preparing for the Festival opening at 9am, although many of us managed to sneak over to the pancake breakfast for some delicious “cakes and sausage patties”. There were vendors all around the gym, auction items in the hallway, a separate room for the speaker presentations, a children’s activities area outside, and even food booths serving brats (what else!), cheesecake, and lots of other delicious food. There truly was something for everyone!

As if that wasn’t enough on Saturday, we ended the day by celebrating our fun-filled and successful day with a pizza and pasta party at Princeton’s VFW hall. There was a lot of back-slapping, congratulations, and thank yous, but the highlight of the evening was the first annual CraneFest Trivia Contest. Six teams of four competed by answering questions about Whooping Cranes and Operation Migration. One by one, the teams received 3 strikes and were eliminated until OMG!, the team made up of Bob and Mary Vethe plus Greg and Carol Bielsky were declared the champions. Losing contestants were overheard saying they planned to study before next year’s contest – watch out OMG!

Sunday brought another great flyover with Joe leading the colts over us against a bright blue sky. Terry Deland then held a brief-but-beautiful memorial service for the Craniacs we lost through the past year. The rest of Sunday was a day for Committee members to “wind down”. We took our time doing the few clean-up tasks left and then enjoyed one of the Festival’s final events: a relaxing Voyageur canoe trip on the Fox River. I heard later that the boat tour at Horicon Marsh attended by many of the Craniacs was a great trip as well.

So now it’s Monday. The party’s over and we’ll get to work preparing for what we’re really out here for – the aircraft-guided migration of the six young Whooping Cranes entrusted to our care. Our target date is next Sunday, weather-permitting, so I better stop writing and get to work!

Before I do, though, let me add that “CraneFest week” was hard work for everyone involved, but I think I can speak for everyone and say that it was truly gratifying and we’re looking forward to planning a bigger and better Festival for 2016. Hope you all can join us!

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  1. Dorothy N September 15, 2015 8:33 am

    Wish I could have made it there in person, but your report was very informative. Here’s hoping you have a few days of rest after all that!

  2. Kate Crook September 15, 2015 6:14 am

    Thank you! You must have heard my request for a summary of the Fest’s events! Appreciate it muchly!!!

  3. Warrenwesternpa September 15, 2015 2:52 am

    Thank you Jo for the excellence in reporting! I’m sure it is a tremendous labor, but I feel so confident that all is well in Operation Migration Land. God Bless you all!

  4. LaraLeaf September 14, 2015 3:11 pm

    It must have been wonderful, exhausting, pleasurable, nerve-wracking, accomplished-feeling all at the same time! Sounds like it was a great event. Thank you for letting us peek behind the curtain!

  5. Margie Tomlinson September 14, 2015 12:47 pm

    Thanks for the report, Jo-Anne! It is especially important to those of us who unfortunately could not attend due to distance, finances, etc.
    Sounds like “a great time was had by all.” Hopefully we can get another trip/visit to attend CraneFest in the near future. Looking forward to the colts departure/1st migration on Sunday the 20th.~^~

  6. Mindy September 14, 2015 10:09 am

    Thank you Jo-Anne! That was a lot of writing but for those of us who could not be there, it was very appreciated. Loved reading about all the hustle and bustle and excitement over Whoopers. So glad you were there.

  7. Lynda Johnston September 14, 2015 7:59 am

    Thanks so much for this description of some of what you all do. It sounds exhausting and wonderful.

  8. Christy September 14, 2015 7:13 am

    Wonderful re-cap, Jobel!
    Take care this week.