Festival WRAP!

And so ends another Whooping Crane Festival… It would take days to write about all the events and incredible volunteers that helped to make the 2015 festival a success, so I’ll just include some thoughts and highlights.

The town of Princeton, Wisconsin may be small but the heart and soul of the community cannot be matched. The residents and Festival volunteers have a special ‘can do’ attitude that gets things done. We thank you – for everything.

We began the celebrations Thursday evening at Reilly’s, overlooking picturesque Green Lake. Friendships were renewed and new ones formed.

Friday morning, some attendees took a behind-the-scenes tour of Horicon Marsh, followed by brunch at the Visitors Center. We thank the staff at the Horicon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge for being so accommodating and helpful.

Friday afternoon was spent putting the final touches in place for our kick-off dinner at Royal Ridges banquet hall in Ripon. A small army of amazing volunteers spent time preparing the centerpieces for the tables, getting placecards in place and assembling the memory table to honor some special Craniacs we lost in the past year so that they would be with us to celebrate.

Mary O’Brien was very deservedly awarded with our annual Volunteer of the Year Award and was surrounded by some of the costumes she painstakingly creates each year. Thank you Mary – you are one of a kind.


Our Friday evening dinner was capped by the very funny and informative Stan Tekeila with his talk titled ‘Uncommon Facts about Common Birds.’ The next morning, Stan attended the flyover location and did his live radio broadcast as the young Whooping Cranes passed by overhead! Here’s a link to the podcast. Stan’s flyover segment begins at the 43:20 mark.

While everyone was watching the six sensational cranes train with the aircraft, the volunteers were hard at work again behind the scenes to get everything ready for the daylong festival at the Princeton School. We cannot thank enough the staff and students who created artwork, prepared an amazing pancake breakfast, arranged chairs and tables, and welcomed the many visitors into their territory for the day.

The gymnasium was filled with artisans and crafters, vendors, and educational displays, while the halls were filled with silent auction items. Our speaker sessions featured Pat Fisher and her rehab volunteers from The Feather, Rob Zimmer gave a talk about gardening for wildlife and, despite some technical difficulties, the talk with our own Joe Duff were all well attended.


Young and old (and in betweens) thoroughly enjoyed interactive sessions with David Stokes and his menagerie of frogs, turtles and snakes.


Saturday evening, many gathered again for a pizza party at Princeton’s VFW hall. Six teams of four participated in the first ever trivia challenge and the victor was team ‘OMG!’ consisting of Carol and Greg Bielski and Mary and Bob Vethe. We hope they’ll return next year to defend their title!

Sunday consisted of a pontoon boat tour of Horicon Marsh and voyageur canoe trips on the Fox River. Both were very well attended and it was a nice relaxing way to end a rather hectic and really FUN few days.


The weather cooperated all three mornings and visitors were treated to some spectacular flyovers by the Class of 2015 and their small aircraft guide.


The camaraderie inspired by the conservation of Whooping Cranes is something I will always cherish and remember.

Thank you – to the many volunteers, the residents of Princeton and surrounding area, and the Craniacs who traveled to White River Marsh to celebrate the return of Whooping Cranes to the area.

Be sure to view the Festival Photo Gallery!

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  1. Margie Tomlinson September 18, 2015 1:35 pm

    What great pictures, people, canoes, origami cranes, etc.! Thank you for posting them especially for those of us who could not be there in person. Thank you to all the volunteers, OM Team, and people who were there to make it a success. Excelsior!

  2. Cathy September 16, 2015 2:29 pm

    So so glad the weather cooperated for all those able to attend. A big round of applause for all of the dedicated volunteers, well done. A special thank you to Heather for letting those of us who were unable to attend enjoy some of the activities from afar, and enjoy we did. And Joe, forgive me, but I really am glad the original presentation didn’t work! Kudos to all involved in making Whooping Crane Festival 2015 such a success.

  3. Kate Crook September 16, 2015 5:32 am

    Thank you too Heather. Wish I could have been there!