MONTE VISTA— Monte Vista’s slew of fun spring activities continued over the weekend with the annual Monte Vista Crane Festival. The popular action-packed event saw some of the highest attendance numbers in recent memory and was a great success for the community.
For three days visitors, community members and bird enthusiasts filled the downtown area, the Vali 3 Theater and Ski Hi Park. People truly came from far and wide to see the cranes and enjoy the festival, with visitors commenting they were from places as far away as New York City.
The festival began on Friday morning with sold out bus tours to view the cranes during the Valley sunrise at the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge. The sunrise tour continued all three days. There was also a sunset tour to view the cranes during the peaceful evening hours.
Friday was also the first day of the Craft and Nature Fair at Ski Hi. Over 200 vendors were present and showed off unique arts and crafts. There were also representatives from different wildlife agencies present who spoke with attendees about wildlife and the abundant recreation opportunities available in the San Luis Valley.
The Colorado Farm Brewery offered tours of their facilities on Friday and Saturday. The brewery explained their deep family roots in the Valley and how they are one of the most unique breweries in the United States, if not the world. Attendees enjoyed sampling the refreshing beer, making new friends and eating barbecue all in a relaxed farm atmosphere.
On Friday evening a free movie was shown at the Vali 3 Theater. “Turtle: The Incredible Journey” was screened. It is a documentary that features the story of a female loggerhead turtle who follows the path of her ancestors. To add excitement Puddle the Blue Goose, who is the mascot of the National Wildlife Refuge, was present before the movie for the enjoyment of the children in the audience.
Saturday morning began with the annual Birder’s Breakfast hosted by the Monte Vista Kiwanis Club. Many festival-goers lined up to enjoy pancakes and other delicious breakfast foods and drinks before starting their full day.
Saturday saw an increase in attendees and activities. The Vali 3 Theater offered free talks throughout the day which climaxed with the keynote speakers in the evening.
This year’s keynote address was given by Erv Nichols and Sandra Knoll. They gave a talk entitled “Migrating with the Sandhill Cranes.”
The couple delighted the capacity audience with their tale of finding love because of the cranes and their journey following the magnificent birds across the United States all the way to Alaska. They began their story by describing how they had met. According to Nichols, Knoll was a on a tour he was guiding. She kept asking him questions until he finally asked if she wanted to have dinner to discuss her curiosity more in depth. “The rest is history,” he said.
The couple continuously made their talk intriguing and enjoyable by giving good bits of information and joking with the audience. They said a common question they get is if cranes mate for life. “They only mate for about a minute, but they are monogamous,” joked Nichols. They also showed the audience a clip of what is thought to be a warning call to potential predators that the female and male cranes make in unison. Nichols and Knoll did a skit suggesting that the female crane may be worrying telling the male crane “they’re getting closer, I think we should warn them; they’re really getting close,” and the male crane constantly responding, “yes, dear.” The couple’s talk was based on a short documentary film that was made about them that has won several awards. The audience was treated to a viewing to close out the keynote address.
The Monte Vista Crane Festival ended on Sunday, March 10. More tours were held and the fair continued. All in all 2019 was a remarkable and memorable year for the crane festival.