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Sandhill Crane Festival celebrates Lodi's winter visitors

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Posted: Thursday, November 2, 2017 8:31 pm

The 21st annual Sandhill Crane Festival, set for this weekend at Hutchins Street Square, is a fun and family-friendly event for local residents and visitors alike, said Kathy Grant, publicity coordinator for the festival’s steering committee.

“We’re always trying do more for students and young kids,” she said.

This year, rock painting workshops are a new activity aimed at offering a fun few hours for visitors of all ages. Lodi and Stockton rock painting groups will host workshops on Saturday and Sunday for festival-goers. Painters of all ages will have the chance to include information about the festival on the rocks before hiding them around town for others to find.

In addition to painting rocks, those attending the festival will have the opportunity to learn how to draw Sandhill cranes from nature journalist John Muir Laws. Laws will take people out into the field to try their hand at nature journaling.

This year’s festival will feature several speakers, an array of wildlife and demonstrations, dozens of tours and several other activities geared toward educating the public about the Sandhill cranes that make their winter home in the Lodi area every year.

“You could just basically show up and be entertained there at Hutchins Street Square all day without going out to see the birds, but our hope is that you make it out to see the birds,” Grant said. “You can stay at the Square and have all your needs met as long as you have time and money.”

The event will kick off Friday night with an opening dinner, consisting of Spanish-style paella and Lodi wine and beer. On Saturday and Sunday, Bon Appetit of Lodi will be on-site to serve up food for those with an appetite.

An art show features more than 100 pieces of art depicting California wildlife. There will be a people’s choice competition held for the art displayed in the art show. An exhibit hall brings vendors, informational booths and more — including the Crane-ium children’s activity area.

During the dinner, local educator Janine Jacinto will be honored for her efforts to teach her students about local nature and wildlife, including the Sandhill cranes. Jacinto plans to have her students’ artwork — from a recent field trip to see the cranes fly in for the evening — on display during the festival.

“Her work with students is very focused on getting kids to understand the local natural world that they live in and to take responsibility to become a good steward of it,” Grant said. “The festival committee is honoring her because she includes going out to see the cranes. She does clean up around her campus and takes many, many field trips throughout the year to the Mokelumne River where they are studying the watershed.”

The festival aims to educate the local community about Sandhill cranes that roost in the area over the winter months, Grant said.

“The irony is it attracts a lot more out-of-towners than it does the locals,” Grant said. “We have people coming from the Bay Area, from up north, from all over the world because we have a very high-quality festival.”

She hopes that more local families will attend the festival this year.

“Birding tends to be more attractive to people with money who can afford binoculars, who have the time and are retired. It tends not to attract the younger crowd — and we’re trying to break down those barriers,” Grant said. “Local young people are who we need to reach, because they need to replace us oldsters who are not going to be around forever. We are trying to pass the torch and raise up a younger local community of crane enthusiasts who can become a part of the work that we do to protect the birds.”

Grant hopes that people will leave the festival with a newfound respect for the Sandhill crane and a little bit of curiosity and new knowledge about the bird.

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