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Festival of the Sandhill Cranes Gather Oct 6, begins two months of crane festivities

Pam Conn and a recycled Sandhill Crane

For Sandhill crane fans, October and November mean it’s time for the beautiful birds’ annual migration and lots of weekend activities in their honor.

Beginning Oct. 6 and running through Nov. 30, visitors are invited to a series of special events that combine a chance to view the Sandhill Cranes and the area’s magnificent fall colors.

The festivities kick-off on Oct. 6 with the Festival of the Sandhill Cranes Gather from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. on the front porch of the Chelsea Historical Society building, next door to Thompson’s Pizzeria and across from the Chelsea Community Fairgrounds. Admission is free.

Here are some of the many activities:

  • Walkers gather at 10:30 a.m. for a 20-minute walk on the new boardwalk and 1/2 way around Pierce Lake and back. This event is hosted by the Five Health Communities Walking Program.
  • Michigan wine tastings at Thompson’s
  • Driving tour to Phyllis Haehnie Sanctuary in Jackson from 3-4 p.m. hosted by LaFontaine
  • Arts and crafts
  • Members of the Jackson Audubon Society answer crane questions
  • Large bake sale from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. hosted by the historical society, jams and jellies, honey and other vendors.
  • Harvest Art Market at Silver Maples of Chelsea from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at 100 Silver Maples Dr., which features more than 20 artist and craftsman showing everything from watercolor to folk art, pottery to glass work, photography to vintage art. There’s a bake sale and entertainment. The event is free.
  • Noon-2 p.m. on Oct. 6 and Oct. 13,  at the Gerald E. Eddy Discovery Center, a free apple cider pressing demonstration and people can get involved in the process from start to finish.

Also at the Discovery Center on Oct. 7, from 2-3:30 p.m., is a program called “Survival Skills You Can Use,” taught by Artemis and Jason Eyster where participants will learn how to make a shelter and bed, build a fire, find water, make your own string and avoid getting lost.

In fact, every Saturday and Sunday in October and November, people are invited to meet at the parking lot between Thompson’s and Wolverine Food and Spirits at 2 p.m. to get a driving map for a self-guided tour to the sanctuary in Jackson. From 4 p.m. until dusk, a Jackson Audubon Society member will answer your crane questions. Spotting scopes will be available as well.

In addition, people can enjoy a box picnic lunch or dinner and tour the flight path of the decorated metal Sandhill Crane sculptures in and around Chelsea.

Crane in front of Mission Marketplace.

There’s also a children’s coloring event. Susan Falcone, a local artist, has created a drawing of the Sandhill crane with two baby cranes, called colts, which can be found at participating restaurants. Enjoy a meal and receive coloring sheets for the children, Conn said.

On Thursdays from Oct. 4-Nov. 15, at the Discovery Center, there is a free after school archery program from 3:30-5 p.m. It’s a 7-week series for children ages 8-18 years and registration is required.

Also at the Discovery Center on Fridays beginning Oct. 5, is a program called Nature Nymphs that takes place from 10-11:30 a.m. for children ages 3-5 with an adult. Children will enjoy stories, puppets, age-appropriate activities and outdoor time. The program takes place rain or shine. Preregistration is required by Oct. 1 and the cost is $14 per child for the 7-week series.

In addition to the Jackson Sanctuary, large numbers of cranes can be seen in parts of the Waterloo Recreation Area through late November. Beginning Oct. 6, visitors to the Discovery Center can pick up free maps to the best fall routes and crane viewing areas in the recreation area. People can also get updates online here. Plus, a film titled “The Sandhill Crane Story” will be shown on request.

During the week, visitors to downtown Chelsea can find recycled sandhill cranes both inside and outside area stores. They can be purchased at the Mule Skinner Boot Shop on Main Street for $220.

For more information about the festivities ‘like’ the Sandhill Cranes Gather Facebook page.

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