Monday, June 27, 2016

WaterFest Celebrates Clean Water and Grows Community

By Sage Passi
Photo credits Anita Jader and Sage Passi

Senator Foung Hawj, a resident of East St. Paul celebrates WaterFest with friends.

The passports have been tallied, the thank you notes delivered, the signs and their posts have been tucked back up in the garage for another season, but the memories are still strong in our minds from this year’s successful WaterFest! Once again we dodged the inclement thunderstorms and despite a short spell of rain, we bought together an enthusiastic crowd at Lake Phalen on Saturday June 4 to celebrate water and our connections with each other in our award-winning, sixteenth annual festival.

This year we narrowed the footprint of WaterFest from the channel north of the pavilion to the boathouse, consolidating our activities in an area that was easier to access. We added some new exhibits including the DNR K9 zebra mussel sniffing dogs, the Water Bar featuring flights of St. Paul, Woodbury and White Bear Lake water, and new activities focusing on pollinators and aquatic invasive species. We drew in new partners, businesses and schools who joined the festivities. We were blessed with the support of a large group of Junior ROTC volunteers from Harding and Johnson High Schools who were incredibly helpful throughout the event and during the clean-up. What awesome teamwork!

ROTC volunteers check in school volunteers and pass out WaterFest T-shirts at the school table.

We’d like to offer a big thank you for this year’s event, “Make A Splash" to our partner, the City of St. Paul, and the other cities in our watershed, the many organizations, schools, businesses, volunteers and sponsors who made this event come alive. A special round of applause goes to our organizer, Debbie Meister for bringing it all together!

Debbie Meister, the Grand “Maestro” of WaterFest

Here are a few snaps shots to rewind and capture the tale of this year’s celebration.

Combination Celebration 

Each year WaterFest is coupled with St. Paul’s celebration of National Get-Out-of-Doors day. What a better way to start the day than with a yoga session by beautiful Lake Phalen.


The day begins with a salute to the sun.

Lake Phalen is the centerfold for this event. Fishing on the lake is always a popular venue at WaterFest, with FIN (Fishing in the Neighborhood) and Joe’s Sporting Goods providing equipment, lessons and a fishing contest.

Wilderness Inquiry draws a steady crowd throughout the day,
providing paddling lessons and voyageur canoe rides
through the Phalen Channel.

The climbing wall set up by St. Paul Parks and Recreation is always a big hit.

WaterFest is a Great Way to Get Acquainted with Our Community 

Many of our partnering organizations and schools set up their exhibits outside the pavilion and along the sidewalk to capture the attention of people passing through the park. 

Payne-Phalen District Five Planning Council from East St. Paul is a regular exhibitor at WaterFest.

L’Etoile du Nord and Farnsworth Schools offer tips on monitoring water quality and preventing non-point source pollution that can contribute to algae growth in our neighborhood lakes.

The Amphitheater was the site for many performances by local talent. The Hmong Center for Arts and Talent recruited and emceed the acts throughout the afternoon.

Students from Level Up Academy in White Bear Lake performed an original song composed for WaterFest.

The City of St. Paul showed off their street sweeping truck.

Many local businesses demonstrated their services.

Meanwhile Inside the Pavilion ... the Crowds Went Wild

Inside the pavilion, dozens of exhibitors drew in their audiences with many hands-on activities that captured the attention of the young and young at heart, providing teachable moments throughout the day.

The Minnesota Herpetological Society offers a tactile and fun way to learn about the behavior and habitats of reptiles.

The Federation of Fly Fishers created customized fishing flies.


Maplewood Nature Center volunteer teaches WaterFest visitors how to identify aquatic invertebrates from their pond.

Many visitors stopped to get a free native plant at the Ramsey
Conservation District’s table or this one where they could make
a pledge to plant for clean water and pollinators. Want to
make your pledge? Go to

 Protecting Water is Our Goal
Erin Meister provides samples of tap water from several cities at the Water Bar, stimulating conversation about the sources, protection and quality of drinking water.

Angie Hong and Jenn Radtke, our Watershed partners in EMWREP (East Metro Water Resources Education Program) oversee their new displays that engage visitors about water conservation and groundwater protection.

Hamline University provided several kiosks and the popular Stormwater
Goalee game to teach participants about the prevention of pollution
that can cause harm to our lakes, wetlands and rivers.


The DNR brought their K-9 zebra mussel sniffing dogs to remind people to clean their watercraft and equipment after each use to help prevent the spread of invasive species.
It was a great day for connecting with old friends and new, learning how we can work together to protect our local lakes, improve our habitats and enjoy our natural environment in our watershed.

We hope you had a chance to join in the fun! Please come next year!
A pair of super heroes!

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