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Keeping Our Waters Blue

The live reptile and amphibian exhibit is a perennial favorite, with kids and adults alike taking turns holding all kinds of Michigan frogs, snakes, and salamanders. Photo by Aubrey Ann Parker.

Water Festival on April 25 at The Garden Theater

The Benzie County Water Festival is designed to engage the public in the stewardship of the Great Lakes, the response to the global freshwater crisis, and the cultivation of a vibrant and sustainable local culture. The theme for this year’s festival — the fourth annual on Friday, April 25 — is “Keeping Our Waters Blue”. The festival seeks to attract, entertain, educate, and activate individuals and groups within the community. This is a family-oriented, community-centered event that fosters education, engagement, and networking opportunities.

Thanks to an ongoing partnership with the Benzie Conservation District and Benzie County’s Recycling Program, the 2014 Water Festival will begin at 1 p.m. with kids’ activities for all K-6 Platte River Elementary students, including an interactive recycling exhibit and crafts, water tasting (tap vs. bottled), a worm farm, an aquatic bugs display, and the Nature Discovery Live Reptile & Amphibian Exhibit, which has probably been the most popular part of past festivals, with kids and adults alike taking turns holding all kinds of Michigan frogs, snakes, and salamanders. Students from other elementary schools are invited to come with their parents once the school day is finished, from 3-6 p.m.

From 6- 9 p.m., the Water Festival will move to The Garden Theater for a panel discussion, a keynote address, and foot-stomping music. Interlochen Public Radio’s Peter Payette will return to lead this year’s panel discussion, which centers around the theme of “Keeping Our Waters Blue,” with an emphasis on the many different industries that affect our water quality. The panel features Benzie County Drain Commissioner Christy Anderson, Benzie County Department of Public Health’s Bill Crawford, Glen Lake Association watershed biologist Rob Karner, and Bernie and Sandee Ware of the Ware Farm in Bear Lake.

Keynote speaker Derek Bailey will offer an indigenous perspective regarding our beautiful waters. He holds a Master’s degree in Social Work and was appointed by President Obama in May 2010 to the National Advisory Council on Indian Education. Kalamazoo-based Graham Parsons & The Go Rounds are a furious live musical act and a progressive recording unit, fueled by the history of its diverse line-up and a collaborative spirit that is injected into everything from songwriting to arranging. Equally inspired by their record collections as by the beauty of the Great Lakes state, the band explores soul music, baroque folk, art rock, country and classic rock ‘n’ roll.

The inaugural Benzie County Water Festival in March 2011 attracted more than 300 attendees during a weekend of events that also featured world-class Michigan musicians, speakers and workshops. “Come Softly, Stand Firmly: Understanding the responsibilities of being the most beautiful place in America” was the theme of the second festival in April 2012, a one-day event that featured three panels of local experts who addressed the state of Benzie County’s watersheds, as well as the economic impact of entrepreneurial business in our region. “Under The Surface,” the theme for last year’s festival in April 2013, included panels on fracking in Michigan and the dredging of Betsie Bay, as well as a keynote address about Northwestern Michigan College’s Water Studies Institute. Last year, the Festival broadened its reach to more young people with a Water Science Fair by 50 Benzie Central High School science students.

Seeking to emulate the precedent set by the past three years, this year’s festival will again feature world-class Michigan musicians, panel discussions and speeches from water luminaries, interactive multimedia projects and presentations, visual art, children’s activities, and connections to local campaigns and projects. Through fundraising efforts, the Benzie County Water Festival is free and open to the public, however donations are encouraged and will help to fund future events. For more information, check out www.water-festival.org or contact Aubrey Ann Parker at (231) 649-3988.

Featured photo at the top: The live reptile and amphibian exhibit is a perennial favorite, with kids and adults alike taking turns holding all kinds of Michigan frogs, snakes, and salamanders. Photo by Aubrey Ann Parker.

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