Celebrating the return of the stunning cranes to their winter habitat, the Sandhill Crane Festival will give bird lovers an opportunity to learn about the animals as well as see them in person.
The 16th annual festival runs Friday through Sunday. Admission to the festival at Hutchins Street Square is free, but there will be fees for the crane tours and some of the workshops.
The festival will kick off with a free opening reception and art show from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Friday, with food and wine from Heritage Oak Winery, organizer Kathy Grant said. The reception will feature the famous crane bread, which is a round loaf with a stenciled crane head on the top. The Dancing Fox Winery & Bakery makes the bread every year out of seeds and grains the cranes might eat locally.
New this year, the reception will also include hummus the bakery made out of garbanzo beans that Dave Kirsten, a local bean broker, grows near the crane's habitat.
There will be music from folk musicians from Bird's Landing, who have a Sandhill crane jig doll — a toy doll that tap-dances at the end of a board when it vibrates — they will play during the performance.
Workshops, presentations, live animal shows, music and children's activities will run from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday and 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sunday.
Grant is most excited that festival attendees will be able to watch "Raising Kid Colt: A Story of a Young Sandhill Crane," and meet the creator of the film, Nina Faust, starting at 12:30 p.m. Sunday.
Faust lives on the Inspiration Ridge Preserve in Homer, Alaska, where she started filming Sandhill cranes breeding in 2010. She captured their dancing, mating and bonding. Then, in 2011, she was able to capture the cranes raising their family.
"The cranes will come up to the windows of (Faust's) house, and they will think it's another crane and start pecking on her windows," Grant said. "It's a very different perspective than we have here because we have to drive to go see them, but they live on her property."
For more information about the festival, call 800-581-6150 or visit www.cranefestival.com.