Brian “Fox” Ellis Featured Among Performers At Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival

Monday, January 9, 2012
Brian "Fox" Ellis
Brian "Fox" Ellis

The 2012 Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival announced naturalist and storyteller Brian “Fox” Ellis as a featured presenter at the festival on Jan. 14-15.

The Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival is a celebration of the thousands of Sandhill Cranes that migrate through or spend the winter on the Hiwassee Refuge in Birchwood, Tn., as well as the rich wildlife heritage and the Native American history of the area. The festival will be held from 8 a.m.–6 p.m. both days, and is free to the public.

The Hiwassee Refuge is also currently enjoying world-wide notoriety as the location for the unprecedented recent sightings of a very rare hooded crane from Asia, attracting wildlife watchers from the far corners of the nation to view this bird and speculate about its origin.

In addition to providing an unparalleled opportunity to view tens of thousands of sandhill cranes as well as some whooping cranes, bald eagles and possibly the hooded crane at the refuge, the Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival features a full schedule of entertainment and educational programs at the Birchwood School, Cherokee Removal Memorial and the Hiwassee Refuge.

As part of its schedule, the festival will showcase the talents of Brian "Fox" Ellis, an internationally-renowned storyteller and naturalist who has been a featured speaker at regional and international conferences on environmental concerns. He is the author of 15 books, including the critically acclaimed “Learning From the Land: Teaching Ecology Through Stories and Activities.”

Many of his stories are also available on one of 12 CDs. His first children's picture book, “THE WEB at Dragonfly Pond” was selected as Conservation Education Book of the Year.

During Mr. Ellis’s visit, he will present special student programs preceding the festival, and then perform two different programs each day during the festival at Birchwood Elementary School. These programs include “Crane Tales” and “Adventures with Audubon,” as he portrays one of America's greatest naturalists and wildlife artists. He will also offer a “Bird is the Word” workshop on creative writing and a program of “Cherokee Tales” at the Cherokee Memorial Museum.

On Saturday evening, Mr. Ellis will present a special ticketed dinner performance at the Meigs County Visitor’s Center. Through his depiction of John James Audubon, Ellis will engage listeners with Audubon’s stories of travels in Tennessee, cranes and his love of art. The program begins with a 6:30 p.m. reception and silent auction, followed by a 7:30 p.m. dinner and performance by Ellis at 8:15 p.m. Tickets are $27, and may be purchased on site or in advance through the festival website by calling 615-831-9311ext.115. Proceeds will benefit the Tennessee Crane Fund.

The Birchwood Elementary School will serve as a major point of interest during the festival, providing parking for shuttle transportation as well as offering a full schedule of entertainment and programming throughout the weekend. The school gymnasium will host children's activities, vending and exhibits from festival sponsors, and music.

Highlights will include a live raptor show by "The American Eagle Foundation, featuring some of the many birds of prey rehabilitated by their team after being found injured across the nation. Musical entertainment by Don King will be showcased as well as a performance by local traditional music expert, Tom Morgan, who, along with Lynne Haas and Ray Branhan, will perform some traditional western and bluegrass songs and provide a “hands on” session” for children. Food service will be provided on Saturday in the school cafeteria.

The school library will offer ongoing films and workshops on Tennessee wildlife and presentations from Operation Migration.

The neighboring Cherokee Removal Memorial will host Native American performances and demonstrations on both Saturday and Sunday.

Demonstrations include traditional finger weaving by Tonya Dockery and arrowhead making by the Flint Knappers. Native American artifacts, tools and other cultural items will be on display and demonstrated. A variety of vendors will also be on hand selling everything from dream catchers to jewelry.

A full festival program schedule and driving directions to Birchwood Elementary School may be found at

During the festival, the refuge will only be accessible by shuttle buses, which pick up at Birchwood School starting at 7 a.m. With the exception of a limited number of parking spaces for the physically disabled and for volunteers, there will be no automobiles permitted at the refuge on Jan. 14 and 15. Otherwise the Hiwassee Refuge, owned and managed by Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, is open daily to the public throughout the year.

The Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival on Jan. 14 and 15 will offer an unforgettable occasion for families and bird watchers alike to view thousands of the spectacular sandhill cranes and enjoy entertaining programs about wildlife from the area. And now, with the appearance of the rare hooded crane, the Hiwassee Refuge offers the unprecedented opportunity to potentially see a sandhill crane, a whooping crane and a hooded crane in one camera frame.

Presenting sponsors of this free family event are the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, the Tennessee Ornithological Society, and the Barbara J. Mapp Foundation in partnership with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation, Birchwood Community and the Birchwood School, the Cherokee Removal Memorial, Blue Moon Cruises, Meigs and Rhea County Tourism, and others.

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