By Santiago Anaya / New Mexico News Port
On Wednesday, Dec. 6, Friends of Bosque del Apache is hosting the 34th annual Festival of the Cranes. The event lasts four days, ending on Saturday, Dec. 9.
The Festival of Cranes celebrates the yearly migration and return of the cranes to the land of enchantment. Sandhill cranes have been migrating from Canada and northern parts of the U.S. to the Rio Grande Valley for thousands of years during the winter to seek warmer weather, according to Fox19Now.
“They are a species that is over 2.5 million years old and has been coming through the Middle Rio Grande for centuries,” Deb Caldwell, executive director at Friends of Bosque del Apache, wrote.
The cranes are also significant to the economy of the Socorro region. The Festival has economically impacted the area in many ways over the years, thanks to the birds returning year after year, according to Caldwell.
“Sandhill cranes are “charismatic megafauna” and attract many visitors to our valley and to our refuge,” Caldwell wrote. “Some estimates show that Festival of the Cranes has brought in up to $2.5 million in economic impact to the Socorro area such as hotel stays, restaurant and gas purchases.”
This is the Festival’s second “live, in-person” event since the pandemic. For two years, the Festival was held virtually during 2020 and 2021. There is growing concern, however, that this year’s event could be affected by a new strain of COVID-19, cranes arriving later due to climate change and possible government shutdown, according to Friends of Bosque del Apache.
“This year is complicated due to possible impending government shutdown, resurgence of Covid cases with the new strain, and the later arrival of cranes due to climate change,” Caldwell wrote. “We moved the Festival out by two weeks, we used to run it the week before Thanksgiving.”
At the event, guests can expect an array of outdoor and indoor activities such as indoor workshops, photography activities, meeting various vendors, and, most of all, observing wildlife.
Indoor workshops and Expo will be held at New Mexico Tech’s Macey Center in Socorro, while outdoor events will be held in various locations at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. Most activities have limited slots available, so it is advised to get tickets early before they are sold out.
“We have 37 birding events, 21 photography workshops, 6 refuge tours, several general interest workshops such as hikes, history, naturalist lectures; we have a keynote presentation on crane conservation,” Caldwell wrote. “23 of our almost 70 events are completely cost-free.”
The Festival is set to still run this winter with outdoor activities starting in the early morning hours and ending in the afternoon. The Expo and indoor workshops will be open from 9 am – 4 pm, beginning Dec. 6 and available until 4 pm on Dec. 9 at the Macey Center, according to the Festival of the Cranes website.
For more information on attending and ticket slots available, please visit https://friendsofbosquedelapache.ticketspice.com/2023-festival-of-the-cranes-registration