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Downtown business creates crane bread in celebration of the Sandhill Crane Festival

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Posted: Friday, November 5, 2010 12:00 am | Updated: 2:22 pm, Tue Dec 6, 2011.

Ever wondered what cranes eat? Now you can try the diets of these majestic birds at the Dancing Fox in Downtown Lodi this weekend to celebrate the Sandhill Crane Festival. The bakery's multi-grain bread features Central Valley wheat, barley, rice, corn and oats, which are staples of the Sandhill Crane's diet. But they did leave out the lizard, toads and bugs the omnivores also eat.

The rounded bread includes a silhouette of a crane's head and long beak. Owner and baker Colleen Lewis said they spent a couple of days finding the right baking combination.

"We wanted to have fun because we know how special it is to have cranes in the area," Lewis said. "We wanted it to be celebratory."

The first batch had too much rice, which made the bread too soft, Lewis said. The crane silhouette was another challenge. Daniel Ruoff, an employee at the bakery, created an intricate crane stencil, but it did not translate onto the bread — and one employee even thought it was a bunny.

So they decided to keep it simple and stick with the identifiable beak. They baked the bread, then dipped it in water and used the cardboard stencil and flour to create the outline of the bird.

Lewis will make the $5 loaves on Saturday and Sunday in the hopes of adding another feature to the already popular festival.

In its 14th year, the celebration of the birds will take place at Hutchins Street Square and out in the cranes' habitat. People can sign up for tours in the Delta, go to the free lectures and activities or go sightseeing in the wetlands off Interstate 5.

This year, there are even more activities for children because families requested it last year, said Kathy Grant, spokeswoman for the festival. Kids can create nature artwork, see wild animals up close, listen to Native American flutes and Japanese drumming, and even dissect an owl pellet to find out what small mammals it ate.

Adults can learn ways to attract birds to their garden, and how to photograph cranes and create bird decoys from wood.

One of the other businesses sponsoring events outside the festival is Woodbridge Uncorked at 18911 N. Lower Sacramento Road. On Saturday, festival participants can go to a tasting room in downtown Woodbridge to eat barbecued bratwurst and taste wines from seven wineries and vineyards at discounted prices.

The festival is a way to celebrate how California has stepped up to preserve the birds' habitat, Grant said. In the 1940s, there were only about four or five breeding pairs migrating down the valley because they were overhunted and their habitat was flooded because of farming.

But now thousands fill the sky. On Thursday morning, groups of cranes gathered at Isenberg Sandhill Crane Reserve as their loud calls filled the air.

Standing near the fence, Carol and Bill Williams used binoculars to gaze at the birds. The couple from Valley Springs had not heard of the festival, but is considering going because they really enjoy looking and learning about the birds.

They moved to the area from Sonoma County about three years ago and discovered the Isenberg preserve last year. Now, whenever they have friends visit from Los Angeles, they take them bird-watching, which is in contrast to where they usually vacation.

"We go to Montana often, and it is not so much big birds, but bears," Bill Williams said.

Contact reporter Maggie Creamer at maggiec@lodinews.com. Read her blog at www.lodinews.com/blogs/citybuzz.

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