Thursday, June 18, 2015

WaterFest - 15 Years and Still Making Waves

by Sage Passi

Each year Wilderness Inquiry guides urban "voyageurs" through Phalen Park at WaterFest.
Photo credit: Sage Passi

It’s been a decade and a half since WaterFest was first initiated at Tanner’s Lake by Louise Watson, the District’s Education and Planning Coordinator at the time. The venue shifted to Lake Phalen in 2001, and with her imagination and expertise at engaging a multiplicity of partners, its potential continued to grow over the next decade. This annual event has evolved into a large community festival with many partners, volunteers, cities, exhibitors, businesses and organizations who team up to offer the public a rich array of water and ecologically related educational hands on activities and entertainment!

"Tie Fly" Paul Beckman from the Federation of Fly Fishers
demonstrates how to tie a fly.
Photo Credit: Anita Jader

Debbie Meister, WaterFest Coordinator, turned WaterFest
into a Zero Waste event in 2011.        Photo Credit: Sage Passi
The coordinator behind this event is now Debbie Meister who very skillfully supports the process of making WaterFest one of the key cornerstones of the Watershed District’s education program.

Debbie has the magical ability to tap into all sorts of resources and build synergy with a myriad of community connections. She sees opportunities in many directions and goes after them with determination.

WaterFest, designed to be a culminating celebration at the end of the school year, has blossomed into a watershed-wide opportunity to showcase and demonstrate the collective strengths, visions and capacities of a wide variety of community partners and individuals who enthusiastically lend their hands to achieve this successful collaboration.

Several years ago the Watershed District teamed up with the City of St. Paul to synchronize Waterfest with their involvement in the National Get Outdoors Day. This has increased audience participation, brought in new partners and added dynamism to the event that continues to draw new audiences each year.

Each year the Watershed District and St. Paul partner to connect
WaterFest with the city's
hosting of Get Outdoors Day.
Photo credit: Anita Jader

This year there were 32 exhibitors in the pavilion, 38 outside exhibitors with 52 activities, 11 sponsors, eight in-kind sponsors and 11 for profit businesses that participated. 

Many people completed the Passport activity which took them to twelve different stations around the event that provided educational venues, including activities such as taking a Storm Drain Goalie pledge, playing a life-size board game called The Ups and Downs in the Watershed, watching a performance at the amphitheater, looking into a storm drain at the video truck and identifying an invasive plant.

This is just the short list of some of the many engaging and fun opportunities participants had to choose from at WaterFest
this year. The Center For Hmong Arts and Talent (CHAT) provided a showcase of local music performers throughout the afternoon on the stage. 

CHAT (The Center for Hmong Arts and Talent) featured local
individuals and groups on stage in the afternoon and drew
a constant audience.
Photo credit: Sage Passi

“A Water Wonderland,” the theme for WaterFest 2015, far exceeded our dreams. With the glorious weather and good spirits this event generated, it’s not a stretch of the imagination to say we came away content and with a feeling of accomplishment and hopefulness about water and a renewed commitment to protecting this precious and essential resource in our community.

We’d like to extend a warm and enthusiastic thank you to all our sponsors, volunteers, participants and in-kind supporters.
Platinum Sponsors
  • City of Maplewood 
  • City of St. Paul Parks & Rec 
Gold Sponsors 
  • Barr Engineering 
  • City of Roseville 
Silver Sponsors 
  • City of Little Canada 
  • Metropolitan Council Environmental Services 
  • Minnesota Water Well Association 
  • Ramsey County 
Bronze Sponsors
  • City of North St. Paul 
Nickel Sponsors 
  • City of Landfall 
  • Lawson Law 
 In-Kind Sponsors
  • Asian Outdoor Heritage 
  • Center for Global Environmental Education—Hamline University 
  • Fin-MN DNR Fishing in the Neighborhood 
  • Joe’s Sporting Goods 
  • Ramsey Conservation District 
  • Wilderness Inquiry 
  • Wheel Fun Rentals 
  • Washington Conservation District
Here’s a “splash” of photos from this successful day!
(with thanks to Anita Jader and my old trusty camera)

The giant merganser puppet, Shingebiss from Phalen Freeze Fest
made an appearance at WaterFest.
The Farnsworth Marching Band, comprised of 220+ students,
performed, once again, at WaterFest.
Simba Blood shows off a Blue Thumb prairie smoke mask
at the District's Natural Resources exhibit.

The Minnesota Herpetological Society's exhibit is always a big hit.
The large macroinvertebrates collected by entomologist
Dean Hansen wows participants each year.
Capitol Region Watershed District's tabletop display produced
by Hamline University challenges all ages.

L'Etoile du Nord student explains the role of phosphorus in run-off issues.
Photo credit: Sage Passi

The Minnesota Dragon Fly Society made its first appearance this year.

The ROTC assists participants at the climbing wall.

Christine Baeumler, University art professor, gives an Eco Oracle
card reading for Barr Engineer, Nathan Campeau.Card images
are based on images from art at the Weisman Art Museum.

The Jump Castle is a big favorite at WaterFest.

The new fishing dock at Lake Phalen was completed just in time.

Archery, one of the many Get Outdoors Day activities, was a big draw.

Sherry Brooks passed out free native plants grown in her classes
at the Rain Garden display table.
CHAT (Center for Hmong Arts and Talent) members confer on
their entertainment line-up.

Photo credit: Sage Passi
Wheel of Fun provided free access to canoes, paddleboats and kayaks.

The City of Maplewood's worm composting display caught
the attention of these participants
Wilderness Inquiry provided equipment and canoeing
lessons for hundreds of WaterFest visitors.

Thirteen local businesses shared their
expertise with WaterFest visitors

See you next year at WaterFest 2016!

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