Attendees at the 19th Annual Whooping Crane Festival in Port Aransas last weekend “whooped it up” during four days of festival activities. Over 700 registered participants from 36 states and four countries–Canada, China, Mongolia and Australia attended the event. Many out-of-state participants travelled to Port Aransas specifically for the festival.
Special guests this year included board members and staff from the International Crane Foundation, which held its annual board meeting in Port Aransas to coincide with the festival.
Festival events included guided boat tours to view endangered Whooping Cranes on their wintering grounds at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, photography workshops and field trips, birding boat and bus tours, a nature-related trade show, and children’s art exhibit. Birding experts were available at area nature sites to assist visitors in identifying the 110 bird species that were observed over the weekend. A highlight at this year’s festival were the world-renowned speakers presenting at The University of Texas Marine Science Institute. The Whooping Crane Festival is the only place where the public can interact with representatives from all four Whooping Crane conservation and reintroduction projects and learn about current recovery efforts.
Speakers included representatives from Wood Buffalo National Park and Operation Migration, both located in Canada; the International Crane Foundation, headquartered in Wisconsin; and a biologist from Mongolia who presented on the endangered cranes in his country. “We saw a dramatic increase in attendance at the speaker sessions this year,” said Ann Bracher Vaughan, President and CEO of the Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce. “I believe the diversity of topics and internationally recognized speakers attract festival attendees from across the country.” Friday’s evening session, featuring speakers from the International Crane Foundation, set a record attendance for any presentation during the festival’s history.
One festival attendee commented, “I’m starting to do the things on my Texas bucket list and attending the Whooping Crane festival was one of them! The Whooping Cranes are an unbelievable treasure to your area, and I hope they continue to bring joy and prosperity to the well-deserved community of Port Aransas. It was truly an outstanding event that I will pass along to all my friends–makes me proud to be a Texan!”
The festival was sponsored by Cheniere, Eagle Optics, HEB, Port Corpus Christi, and Swarovski Optik, as well as many local partners, and is proud to be a nature-related and educational festival which stands out as “one of a kind,” focusing on conservation and recovery of one of our most endangered species.