Here's what you need to know for this year's Festival of the Cranes - Albuquerque Journal

Here’s what you need to know for this year’s Festival of the Cranes

Thursday, Dec. 1 through Saturday, Dec. 3, will mark the 33rd installment of the annual Festival of the Cranes. It’s the first time people can visit the refuge in-person for the event since 2019. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

Each year, the Festival of the Cranes at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge reminds locals and visitors of the natural beauty that is, and occurs in, the state of New Mexico.

This year will mark the 33rd installment of the annual Festival of the Cranes. It will be especially beautiful, however, for it’s the first time people can visit the refuge in-person for the event since 2019.

Deb Caldwell, executive director of Friends of the Bosque Del Apache, said organizers are still taking COVID precautions, and this year’s event is smaller than it has been in the past, but they want to make sure people feel safe.

“It’s been a challenge, figuring it all out, but I think we have succeeded in creating a nice event,” she said.

Sandhill cranes and snow geese migrate south from Canada and the northern part of the United States to Bosque del Apache every year. The first flock usually arrives in late October, but the area hosts tens of thousands of birds throughout early December.

Visitor services ranger Amanda Walker said there have been plenty of cranes, ducks and geese so far this year.

“A lot of visitors recently,” she said about traffic to the refuge. “Feels similar to pre-COVID.”

The Festival of the Cranes will take place Thursday, Dec. 1 through Saturday, Dec. 3 and visitors will not only be privileged to the site of thousands of cranes taking to the sky, but there will also be creative workshops and seminars to attend.

At the refuge’s visitor center, the Expo Room workshops will focus on photography, birding and education on the state’s vast and historic environment.

“Festival is really our biggest event of the year,” Caldwell said. “It’s really to educate the public to make them more interested in conserving the beautiful places and animals that we have.”

All indoor seminars will take place at New Mexico Tech, including a keynote talk about wetlands. Barnaby Briggs, chair of the Waterfowl and Wetlands Trust, will explain how everyone can contribute to the restoration of wetlands – and the planet as a whole – through his global experiences with the cause.

New Mexico Tech will also have a Wildlife Zone for kids to get an up-close look at rehabilitated birds, reptiles and mammals, and there will be live music and face painting.

“I think if you help people have fun … they want to preserve it not just for themselves, but for future generations,” Caldwell said.

Festival of the Cranes is happening Thursday, Dec. 1 through Saturday, Dec. 3, at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. This is a view from one of the many ponds where birds of all kinds land, including sandhill cranes. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

The Festival of the Cranes celebration is one of New Mexico’s most extraordinary events. It educates visitors about important issues regarding the environment, allows them to develop and strengthen their photography and birding skills, but also serves as an escape – for both wildlife for survival and humans to break free from artificiality.

“I think a lot of people are excited that we’re doing the festival again,” Caldwell said. “I think all of us are ready to have fun again.”

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