I highly recommend this trip. From my town of Columbus, Ohio, it is only about a four hour drive, and the Chicagoans need only travel half that distance. Jasper-Pulaski is in easy driving range from much of the Midwest, and you'll meet people from all over the place who have traveled to see the cranes.
The huge meadow overlooked by the main viewing platform is known as Goose Pasture. It serves as a social rendezvous point for the cranes, which spend the evenings in nearby marshes elsewhere on the 8,000+ acre wildlife area. Around sunrise, the cranes fly en masse to Goose Pasture and seemingly chat it up with each other. Shortly after sunrise, the birds begin streaming out to surrounding fields to spend the day foraging.
Dusk and dawn are the times to be at the viewing platform for the cranes' social hours. In between, trolling the local roads will produce scads of cranes feeding and resting in agricultural fields. Oftentimes the birds are quite near the road, and often will not flush or be unduly disturbed if the observers remain in their vehicle.
A Sandhill Crane is one big bird. It stands about four feet in height, has a wingspan of around seven feet, and can weigh eleven pounds. Over 1,500 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds would be required to match the mass of a crane. People that I suspect would never notice the lesser components of our fauna, such as pleasing fungus beetles or various sparrows, DO notice Sandhill Cranes. And many of them travel far distances to J-P to witness the crane spectacle and admire the feathered giants for hours on end.
This wasn't my first time at the Jasper-Pulaski crane dance, and as before the trip came to a close all too soon, and it was time to get back to my world.