Cold, damp weather didn’t prevent hundreds of people from flocking to the 25th annual Whooping Crane Festival, held in Port Aransas Thursday to Sunday, Feb. 24 to 27.
“We felt like the festival went very well despite the weather,” said Lisa Shelton, special events and community relations manager with the Port Aransas Tourism Bureau and Chamber of Commerce, which hosts the event. “We were very happy, especially since we were not able to have the festival last year.”
COVID concerns caused the festival to be cancelled last year.
Kim and Dave Lebsack and Susan and Roger Quick said they traveled all the way from their homes in Greeley, Colorado, especially to attend the festival.
They said they saw whooping cranes on a festival boat tour out of Port Aransas. They also went on dolphin and birding tours and visited the festival’s trade show to make a few purchases in the Civic Center.
“It’s been very organized, very professionally done,” said Susan, who clutched a shopping bag holding a stuffed whooping crane doll as she spoke.
“And everyone’s been very friendly,” Dave said.
More than 2,000 tickets were sold to the various festival events.
“We had more than 1,100 online orders placed for the paid events,” said Brett Stawar, president and CEO of the chamber. “In years past the largest number of online purchases was 700.”
The cold, rainy weather had some impact, Stawar said.
“We did have to cancel one boat tour and the Fennessey Ranch tour due to the winds,” he said. “The weather did deter some folks from attending their events, but others were anxious to fill in if they cancelled.”
The crummy weather didn’t keep Sherry Ebberts from traveling here from Georgetown and enjoying festival facets including a tour of the Amos Rehabilitation Keep, where sick and injured wildlife is taken for rehabilitation after rescues.
The festival was “fabulous,” Ebberts said.
“We just got in last night and took a tour of the ARK today,” she said. “It is wonderful how they rehabilitate.”
The festival had some sold-out speaker sessions, and “the other sessions were quite full as well,” Stawar said.
Festival goers got to see a pair of whooping cranes that are wintering at the Port Aransas Nature Preserve at Charlie’s Pasture.
“The whoopers were quite active,” Stawar said. “Many of the walks and tours did get a glimpse of them, and people were generally thrilled,” he said.
Stawar said that folks on whooping crane boat tours that went to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge reported that they saw about 60 whooping cranes on the trips.
“There also were a couple of rare species of birds spotted by the visitors,” he said. “A pair of tiny gulls and a pair of harlequin ducks were spotted near the jetties.”