Great Midwest Crane Fest Soars Toward Its Second Spectacular Year

Sandhill Cranes flocking on the Wisconsin River
Sandhill Cranes preparing for their evening roost on the Wisconsin River in southern Wisconsin. Ted Thousand

Jodi Legge, 608-356-9462 ext. 120
Eric Snyder, 608-355-0279 ext. 390

Event Hosted by International Crane Foundation and Aldo Leopold Foundation

Baraboo, Wis. – Sept. 26, 2023 – Registration is now open for the second annual Great Midwest Crane Fest –”Celebrating Community and Conservation”– which will be held on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 10-11, at the International Crane Foundation and Aldo Leopold Foundation in Baraboo, Wis. Register for the festival here.

The festival will include events at both sites and feature lectures, workshops, food, crane art, and tours of each organization’s world-class attractions. The weekend highlight will be one of nature’s most adored mainstage shows, as thousands of Sandhill Cranes congregate on the Wisconsin River’s banks and islands just behind the world-famous Leopold family shack and farm. These cranes are gathering there to prepare for their annual migration south.

During the two-day event, the International Crane Foundation will provide guided Cranes of the World tours where visitors can view all 15 species of cranes living in re-created environs from around the world, including its rarest, the Whooping Crane. In addition, there will be a special screening of the film, “Mates for Life,” in the theater at the George Archibald Welcome Center.

At the Aldo Leopold Foundation, visitors will enjoy hiking trails through restored prairie and savanna landscapes, crane congregation viewing from blinds in nearby fields and along the Wisconsin River, and guided tours of the Leopold Shack and farm, a National Historic Landmark and place of inspiration behind Aldo Leopold’s poetic, conservation masterwork, A Sand County Almanac.

For attendees, it’s like stepping back in time to watch a natural phenomenon almost lost forever. Early last century, only a few dozen cranes remained in Wisconsin due to habitat loss and overhunting. Today, this annual gathering is one of conservation’s outstanding success stories. Thousands upon thousands of majestic, bugling Sandhill Cranes once again follow their primordial, pre-migratory urge and congregate annually on the Wisconsin River’s banks and islands.

“So, so spectacular,” said one first-year festivalgoer. “I always thought I’d have to go to Nebraska’s Platte River to witness such an eye-popping display of winged wildness. But here it is, right in our backyard!”

“Sandhill Cranes are one of the great conservation success stories of the past century, soaring back from the brink of extinction in Wisconsin thanks to wetland conservation efforts, support from farmers, and reduced hunting pressure,” said Dr. Rich Beilfuss, ICF’s President and CEO. “Sandhill Cranes are part of our everyday lives in ways I could not have imagined a few decades ago. I am delighted to join the Aldo Leopold Foundation and our community to celebrate this great achievement, revel in these magical birds, and share innovative new ways to support farmers who support cranes on their lands.”

“When you visit the beautifully remodeled displays of the International Crane Foundation, you’ll notice a quote by Aldo Leopold etched large on the wall near the Sandhill Crane exhibit. It’s taken from a lamenting essay he penned in the 1940s, Marshland Elegy, in which Leopold pre-mourns what he believed would be the inevitable passing from this world of the Sandhill Crane,” said Buddy Huffaker, Aldo Leopold Foundation’s Executive Director.

“I’m happy to say, it’s one time he was proven wrong – the Sandhill is thriving, partly because the world listened to Aldo and took action to protect this ‘trumpet in the orchestra of evolution.’ Now we are in a unique position, as two foundations of like mind and kindred spirit –and close physical proximity – to throw a great party for cranes and the community that, like Leopold, can’t live without them.”

Visit greatmidwestcranefest.org to purchase tickets, see the schedule of events and learn more. Parking will be available at the International Crane Foundation on Shady Lane Road and the Aldo Leopold Foundation on Levee Road.

Special thanks to the Great Midwest Crane Fest Hospitality Sponsor, Culvers.