THE 39th annual Monte Vista Crane Festival takes flight Friday through Sunday at the Monte Vista Wildlife Refuge and Ski Hi Regional Events Center. The national wildlife refuge, particularly at sunrise and sunset, yields spectacular viewing of thousands of Sandhill Cranes, and then the Ski Hi events center presents arts and crafts and other Crane Festival-related activities.

The big picture: The Crane Festival draws in an estimated 18,000 to 20,000 visitors, largely from the Front Range of Colorado and northern New Mexico, to experience the sights and sounds of thousands of migrating Sandhill Cranes. Those visitors add about $3.5 million in spending on lodging, meals, and other activities, according to a 2020 survey the Monte Vista Crane Festival Organizing Committee conducted.

Why it matters: The Crane Festival and the economic impact it creates occurs during what tourism officials call the “shoulder season.” With the festival happening in March, ahead of the busier summer and fall months for tourists traveling through and experiencing the San Luis Valley, it provides a nice late winter and early spring bump for local hotels and restaurants.

To get more flavor of the Crane Festival, including how it got started in 1983, listen to our podcast with Jenny Nehring, a member of the Crane Festival organizing committee and board member on the San Luis Valley National Wildlife Refuges.

Podcast link:

Monte Vista Crane Festival Schedule: