Tuesday, June 17, 2014

“Water is Life” – a celebration of WaterFest in its Fifteenth Year

Harding High Earth Club kicks off WaterFest 2014 wtih a ceremony to honor
the many lakes, creeks and rivers in our watershed.
By Sage Passi

WaterFest, the Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District’s “event of the year,” held on May 31st at Lake Phalen, proved once again to be a kaleidoscope of many magic moments. This year we celebrated the fifteenth anniversary of this free public event which honors our clean lakes and provides outdoor fun and opportunities for hands-on learning about the water quality, wildlife, and special ecological features of our watershed.

Shann Finwall, Environmental Planner for the City of Maplewood,
captivates her audience while educating about protecting pollinators.
There are many people and organizations who volunteer their time and energy to make this a successful day. It’s truly a grassroots community event, coordinated by consultant Debbie Meister with support from a cadre of many Watershed District staff, our Board of Managers and Citizen Advisory Committee members, students and teachers from local schools and the University of Minnesota, community volunteers, organizations, local businesses and the City of St. Paul who is a major sponsor and partner for this celebration. 

Clockwise from top left: Families enjoyed quad bikes from Wheel Fun Rentals.  A girl gets a close up look at some of Maplewood Nature Center's live animals.  The MN Herpetological Society was a crowd favorite.  Katie Keefer, on the District's Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC) answers questions at the information tent.

Coupling this event with the city of St. Paul’s sponsorship of the National Get Out-of-Doors Day has proven to be a charmed partnership that has helped this event grow in size and popularity over the past three years. Many local cities in the district in addition to St. Paul pitch in to help finance this event. Our many thanks to the hundreds of volunteers and visitors who made this annual event a big success!!!
St. Paul's National Get Out-of-Doors Day included many fun activities including face painting, arts & crafts, a climbing wall, archery, a bounce castle and more.

Matt Brickman with WCCO's Mobile Weather Watcher
Of course it wouldn’t be a typical WaterFest celebration without some precipitation. Matt Brickman with WCCO’s Mobile Weather Watcher van was set up next to the Pavilion and provided up-to-the-minute weather reports to nearby exhibitors and curious visitors. True to character, this year’s WaterFest took place on a mostly pleasant late spring day with the repeated suspense of when the next downpour would hit. 

But, the threat of inclement weather in the afternoon didn't seem to deter people for very long. Luckily the Water Is Life and waterfall dedication ceremonies had been carried out by noon so that each time after the brief rainstorms hit, the crowds came back, most exhibitors returned to their displays, visitors ventured out in Voyageur canoe rides or got on padelboards and took up the many other fun activities up and down the shoreline of Lake Phalen from the beach house to the Pavilion. 

Left: This optimistic man's shirt says "Sunshine.'  Chalk drawings from The Friends of Swede Hollow got a
fresh pallet after downpours.

We knew there was a good crowd there - maybe one of the busiest yet - but we were delighted to get some final estimates of how many folks participated in the activities.  Check out some of the numbers and highlights:
  • Over 400 people paddled in the Voyageur canoes 
  • There were over 90 exhibits plus many other activities including displays by schools 
  • 519 people participated in St. Paul’s arts and crafts projects
  • Camille Gage, public artist and Romi Slowiak, Art in Swede Hollow organizer engaged participants in arts activities
  • Over 700 people got LEAP Frog tattoos
  • Solar pontoons provided non-stop rides for over 150 people
  • Access to stand-up paddleboards, canoes and kayaks was free at the beach area and busy all day.
  • About 200 people fished and/or participated in the fishing contests
  • 40 people participated in geocaching and spent an average of an hour in this activity


The theme of WaterFest 2014 was Water is Life.  Performances by students from Harding High School, St. Peter and Farnsworth Schools and the Farnsworth marching band (200+ students in the band alone!) reflected this theme during the dedication and turning-on of the restored waterfall on the west side of Lake Phalen.  Thank you to Bryan Murphy, St. Paul Landscape Architect for restoring the waterfall!

Top left: The waterfall on the northwest shore of Lake Phalen, created in the 1950s, had been dry for decades.
Top right: The crowd gathers and waits for the waterfall to be turned on.
Bottom: Farnsworth Aerospace marching band fills the amphitheater.

There were many other activities in the pavilion, around the pavilion, at the beach house and all the way down to the beach.  Here are a few more shots:
Left: Stormdrain Goalie game by Hamline University's CGEE.
Right: Dean Hansen's macroinvertebrate display gets more interesting every year.

Left: Kids got up close and personal with Dean Hansen's macroinvertebrate display.
Right: Artwork, science projects, local organizations, and lots and lots of delighted guests.

Left: Harding High School Earth Club volunteer helps a visitor mix up her own non-toxic cleaner to take home.
Right: RWMWD's displays attract all ages.
Exhibitors and guests fill the paths at WaterFest 2014.

Lee & Rose Warner Nature Center host solar pontoon rides.
The musician for the Waterfall Dedication ceremony, Don Rose, was canoed in from
the beach by Randee and John Edmundson.

Sage Passi (blue shirt) and Bev Blomgren (holding blue scarves), the creative minds behind
the Waterfall Dedication program stand with St. Peter School Poets.  Also pictured, Don Rose, musician for the program.

The MN Pollution Control Agency's Permeability Plunco had a steady stream of interested kids and adults.

Project WET use fish stamping to teach kids about native fish species.

SCM Yoga LLC hosted free classes near the boat house.

St. Paul Public Works brought their street sweeper to give visitors an up-close view.

MN Stand Up Paddleboarders Association gave free lessons and use of equipment.

Vertical Endeavors exhibitor promoting membership for year-round climbing.

Wilderness Inquiry & Voyageur Canoes take a rain break while visitors goof around while they wait.

The Stormdrain Goalie air hockey game (Hamline CGEE) was a big hit, especially during downpours.

Rice Creek Watershed District's Stormwater Putt Putt golf was far more challenging than it looks!

Wilderness Inquiry staff shows visitors the proper way to hold a canoe paddle.

Hmong Outdoor Enthusiasts provide fishing poles, lessons and co-sponsor the fishing contest.

WaterFest is an opportunity for people of all ages to learn by doing, hear from experts, play a little, stretch, eat some yummy food and join the Watershed community to celebrate the web of relationships we have to water.  Were you there?  Did you see yourself in the photos above? What was your favorite part?  We welcome your comments and discussion below.

Photos by Anita Jader, Sage Passi, and Carrie Magnuson

No comments:

Post a Comment