The annual festival celebrates the arrival of the Whooping Crane

A whooping crane searches for its favorite meal, blue crabs, on a sunny December day. A pair of whooping cranes have returned to winter in the Port Aransas Nature Reserve at Charlie’s Pasture since the winter of 2017. Photo courtesy of Paula Baker

Those wishing to participate in their choice of tours, excursions and workshops at the 25th annual Whooping Crane Festival are encouraged to register online now, according to organizers.

There is no general registration fee this year. Instead, speaker sessions each have a nominal fee, and different trips and workshops are priced separately. The Port Aransas Tourism Board and Chamber of Commerce are hosting the event.

Pre-register online at via MasterCard or Visa.

Festival t-shirts can also be purchased online.

Attendees who registered and purchased t-shirts online, packages and t-shirts can be picked up from the civic center foyer beginning at 10 a.m. on February 24. Bags and t-shirts will continue to be available for pickup through the festival.

The Civic Center is located at 710 W. Ave. AT.

In-person registration for speakers and trips will begin Thursday at 10 a.m. at the Civic Center and will continue throughout the event.

The organizers have programmed several unique events for festival-goers this year.

A reception for festival attendees, speakers and guides will be hosted by the Port Aransas Art Center from 5-8 p.m. Thursday. All are welcome to view the artwork in the gallery while listening to live music, sipping champagne and munching on treats. The art center is located at 104 N. Alister St.

Island-style painting sessions on wine, whine and design are scheduled for Friday and Saturday from 5-8 p.m. Participants will paint a Whooping Crane with step-by-step instructions from an artist. The cost of the sessions is $80 per person. Class size is limited to 16 participants.

A unique birding event scheduled for Saturday is Birds and Brews with Mikael Behrens and Ray Dillahunty. Both men are avid birdwatchers and naturalists. They will host the new version of birdwatching at Charlie’s Pasture Nature Reserve Pavilion. Beer will be served to participants who must be 21 years of age or older.

On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, tours of the Amos Rehabilitation Dungeon (ARK) are scheduled. During this tour, participants will learn how ARK staff and volunteers rescue and rehabilitate sick and injured birds, sea turtles, tortoises, and tortoises found along the South Texas coast. Tour guides will share stories about their work and the people of the ARK.

For more information and to register for the event, visit the festival website or contact the chamber at (361) 749-5919.

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