Monte Vista Crane Festival takes flight


The Monte Vista Crane Festival is set to begin March 8-10. During the month of January, there have been ticket sales for crane viewing and different tours at the 36th festival. The first week itself had over 200 tickets that were sold for the different events. There were events for traditional Sandhill Crane tours, beer tasting and visiting archaeological sites. There are still a lot of tickets, however the expectation is that by the end of January, the tickets will be sold out. The Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge annually celebrates the arrival of the mass migration of thousands of Sandhill Cranes, an endangered species that has only recently began to recover their numbers. With that said, the cranes don’t stay. They only touch down to feed and rest before continuing their migration north to their final nesting ground. It is an amazing sight to see and something many locals feel privileged to witness.

The tours offered are hosted by different companies. For example, the archaeological tour is hosted by the Scott Miller Archaeological Site, which is located in the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge, and it’s generally closed to the public. However, to gain more funds, they open it up to one tour only for people to see and examine the site that contains hundreds of ancient artifacts that date back more than 10,000 years. Tours are offered by the Colorado Farm Brewery that is located southeast of the refuge, which give tourists the opportunity to learn things about brewing that they might not have known about, as well as being able to taste different kinds that they have made. Bird walks are also offered by a local ornithologist, John Rawinski, who has a lot of accumulated knowledge to impart, but there are only two tours that go around Home Lake. Raptor-viewing and a guided tour highlighting the history of different stops of the Sangre De Cristo National Heritage Area. The raptor viewing is led by experts at Hawks Aloft, a rehabilitation place for raptors that have been injured or abandoned as babies to recover and be set free again. This is located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and will be offered again this year.

This festival is an important event, not only for the communities in the valley but also for the organizations that are involved. It helps bring in new funds and the interest of different people to the needs of different companies and refuges. Volunteers are the ones who make this event possible and is organized every year through sponsorship from various businesses and individuals.

Ruthanne Johnson, media outreach specialist, believes this is an important event.

“This event is an important part of this community. Without the support of businesses and volunteers, the cranes would not have a good place to rest and recover from their beginning flight and a way to center themselves for the last stretch,” Johnson said. “This is an important part for the birds and without this, they would have to find somewhere less ideal that might not be able to handle the amount that come.”