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24th Annual Sandhill Crane Festival Scheduled January 17-18

Wednesday, January 07, 2015 | 04:54am

NASHVILLE --- The 24th edition of the Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival is set to be held Jan. 17-18 at the Hiwassee Refuge and at the Birchwood Community Center. 

The TWRA is the primary sponsor for the festival and many staff members and volunteers will again be contributing their services.  For the fourth consecutive year, Olin Chlor Alkali Products is the corporate sponsor for the festival.  The festival is a celebration of the thousands of sandhill cranes that migrate through or spend the winter on and around the Hiwassee Refuge in Birchwood as well as an opportunity to focus attention on the rich wildlife heritage of the state and the Native American history of the area. 

Region III Wildlife Program Manager Kirk Miles is serving as this year’s coordinator for the event. “We are looking forward to another great weekend and hopefully the weather will cooperate and the cranes will be out in good numbers,” Miles said. “There are a lot of activities for people to enjoy throughout the day as well.”

Beginning in the early 1990s, the recovering population of eastern sandhill cranes began stopping at the Hiwassee Refuge on their way to and from their wintering grounds in Georgia and Florida. TWRA has been managing this refuge for more than 60 years for waterfowl, and the cranes found a perfect combination of feeding and shallow water roosting habitat. As many as an estimated 12,000 of these birds now spend the entire winter at the confluence of the Hiwassee and Tennessee rivers. 

The festival will run from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. (EST) each day. Free bus shuttle service will be available from the Birchwood Community Center to the Hiwassee Refuge and Cherokee Removal Memorial Park each day.  No public parking is available at the refuge.

Various vendors will be at the Birchwood Community Center. In addition, breakfast will be available for purchase at the community center each day from 7-8 a.m. and lunch will be available from 11:30-a.m. until 3 p.m.

Music, special programs, and children’s activities will be ongoing throughout each day. The American Eagle Foundation will be present for its always-popular live raptor show each day at 2 p.m. There will be a new presentation this year, Archeology in the 21st Century: A New Look at Hiwassee Island which will be held Jan. 17 at 1 p.m. 

Erick Baker, host of the new television program, Tennessee Uncharted, will be a first time musical performer at the event on Saturday from noon to 12:45 p.m. An official welcome and live music will start the programs each day at 11 a.m. Traditional heritage music will be played from 3-4 p.m. each day.

The nearby Cherokee Removal Memorial will feature Native American folklore specialists. They will present performances, artifacts and objects used in everyday life by Native American inhabitants in the Hiwassee River area.

Along with the wildlife viewing at the refuge, wildlife and birding experts will be on hand. They will provide visitors with a unique educational experience by sharing viewing scopes and information. 

The Hiwassee Refuge comprises about 6,000 acres. The Birchwood Community Center is only three miles from the wildlife-viewing site at the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge.  The Cherokee Removal Memorial is found just to the side of the refuge near the Tennessee River.

Other Sandhill Crane Festival partners include the Tennessee Wildlife Federation, Tennessee Ornithological Society, Birchwood Area Society Improvement Council, Cherokee Removal Memorial Park, Cleveland State Community College, American Eagle Foundation, Chattanooga Chapter TOS, Meigs County Tourism, and Rhea County Tourism.  


Photo Caption: 

The Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival will be held Jan. 17-18 at the Hiwassee Refuge and in the community of Birchwood. It is the 24th anniversary of the event. (Click on image to view larger)

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