The 27th annual Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival is scheduled for this weekend, about 35 miles northeast of Chattanooga at the Hiwassee Refuge and the Birchwood Community Center.

The festival, hosted by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, celebrates the thousands of cranes that migrate through the area each year. On both Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., guests can enjoy programming with information about crane conservation efforts, along with live music and crafts.

Free buses will take visitors from the Birchwood Community Center to the Hiwassee Refuge and Cherokee Removal Memorial.

If you go

What: Sandhill Crane Festival

When: Saturday-Sunday, Jan. 14-15, 8 a.m.-4 p.m.

Where: 5623 Tennessee 60, Birchwood, TN 37308

How much: Free

Both areas provide great views of the river and various types of birds, including sandhill cranes, bald eagles, golden eagles, white pelicans, whooping cranes and many types of waterfowl.

The Tennessee Aquarium will provide two-hour guided crane and eagle boat tours on the Hiwassee River during the festival. Passengers will learn about various birds in the area, along with the Cherokee heritage in the region and historical Mississippian cultural sites dating back to 1000 A.D. Clickherefor more information.

As many as 12,000 sandhill cranes have been known to stop at the Hiwassee Refuge on their way to and from their wintering grounds in Georgia and Florida.

The North American Crane Workshop will hold its annual meeting in Chattanooga in the days before the festival and will be attended by researchers and conservationists from all over the continent.

Ashley Day is a contributing writer. She is also a student at UTC, where she is the opinion editor for the University Echo.