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This year’s Festival of the Cranes canceled


A flock of sandhill cranes takes flight at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in October 2010. This year’s Festival of the Cranes has been canceled due to economic uncertainty and safety concerns about a potential COVID-19 resurgence in the fall. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

Event cancellations have become commonplace during the COVID-19 pandemic. Summer festivals, markets and conferences across New Mexico have scrapped their plans in an effort to prevent spread of the virus.

Last week, Friends of Bosque del Apache canceled November’s Festival of the Cranes, a sign that economic uncertainty and health concerns could determine the fate of large events for months after the virus has peaked.

“This is a top-heavy project that we plan and pay for months in advance,” festival manager JulieAnna Blomquist told the Journal. “If we canceled any later, we would already be in the hole for an event that we are not entirely sure would be happening, anyway. We just don’t know when this upheaval will end, so we couldn’t make that investment.”

Each fall for more than 30 years, the Festival of the Cranes has drawn bird enthusiasts and photographers to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. About 900 people register for the festival’s paid events, which include nature tours and photography workshops. But many more attend the free events and visit Bosque del Apache to catch a glimpse of the majestic birds.

State and federal officials have warned that social distancing requirements and bans on large gatherings could extend for months, especially if there is a COVID-19 resurgence in the fall. Earlier this month, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN that the novel coronavirus could be seasonal.

“There is always a possibility as we get into next fall and the beginning of early winter that we could see a rebound,” Dr. Fauci said. “Hopefully, what we’ve gone through now and the capability that we have for much, much better testing capability, surveillance ability and the ability to respond with countermeasures, with drugs that work, it will be an entirely different ballgame.”

Blomquist said bird festivals across the state and the region are canceling – some as far ahead as January. She said Festival of the Cranes organizers are brainstorming about how to create webinars or recordings to fill the void left by the cancellation of November’s gathering.

“We’re in the early phases of adjusting how some festival events could take place virtually or in very small groups,” Blomquist said. “If people can’t be on the refuge, we want to make the refuge more accessible inside their homes. We’re in the same boat as a lot of nonprofits in finding new ways to connect with people.”

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