Celebrate everything “bird” at the the18th Annual Whooping Crane Festival beginning Thursday, Feb. 20. The four-day festival runs Thursday through Sunday, Feb. 20 – 23, in Port Aransas. On site registration will open at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday at festival headquarters at the Civic Center, 700 W. Ave. A.
“The festival has attracted the attention of many who understand the significance of this festival celebrating the endangered whooping crane, the rarest of all cranes in the world, and as a result we have attendees from 30 states and different provinces in Canada and the Northwest Territory who have already registered, “ said Ann Bracher-Vaughan, president and CEO of the Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce Tourist Bureau. Register for the guest speaker sessions at The University of Texas Marine Science Institute for $20. The cost for non-registrants at the speaker events is $10 per session.
Speaker sessions will be held at the UTMSI Auditorium at the end of Cotter Avenue. Registrants also have an opportunity to sign up for tours and trips. Individual tours, trips and workshops are priced separately. Many of the tours and workshops already are sold out and there is limited availability on quite a few others.
Rob Kent, the superintendent of Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada, will speak on Friday, Feb. 21, at 7 p.m., on “Wood Buffalo National Park – Refuge of the Whooping Crane.”
The festival’s keynote presenter, Dr. George Archibald, is a world-renowned ornithologist and co-founder of the International Crane Foundation. He has received numerous conservation awards including the Dan W. Lufkin Prize for Environmental Leadership from The Audubon Society. Archibald will speak at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 22. The title of Archibald’s talk is, “Ancient Cultures and Ancient Cranes Meet in Ethiopia.”
Additional speakers from the cranes’ wintering area in Texas and the whooping crane reintroduction projects in Louisiana and the Wisconsin/ Florida eastern migratory flyway will also speak at this year’s festival. Various nature-related activities, boating excursions, guided bird and nature bus tours, exhibits, interactive workshops and seminars are all featured events at the festival.
Local and area expert birders will be leading field trips and be on location at the many birding sites in Port Aransas. They will be on hand to assist in helping visitors identify the more than 140 species that are traditionally seen during the festival. In addition, several special free events are included in the festival. An optics presentation is at the Bill Ellis Memorial Library on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 21 and 22, at 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Other free events are scheduled at the Civic Center. The “Bird’s Nest Trade Show,” a nature related trade show, will be on Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The “Bird’s Nest Bistro” will be open only for lunch from 11:00 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will feature soups, salads and tacos from Irie’s Island Food and limited beverage services in the Civic Center. Also in the Civic Center, a presentation at the Children’s Corner, “Not so Creepy Critters,” is scheduled for Saturday from 10 a.m.to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. A special exhibit of works from Port Aransas ISD students will be on display at the Port Aransas Art Center, at 323 N. Alister St. The center will be open daily during the festival. A number of Port Aransas businesses are offering discounts for Port Aransas lodging during the festival. Contact the tourist bureau or the festival website www.whoopingcranefestival.org for information about which businesses are offering the discounts. For more information call the chamber at 749-5919 or (800) 45-COAST or go to http://www.portaransas.org/. This year’s festival will provide an opportunity to learn about whooping crane conservation efforts across North America. The Port Aransas Whooping Crane Festival is the only known festival where representatives from every whooping crane conservation and reintroduction project will be in attendance for the public to interact with and learn about current initiatives.