2015 Water Festival

What: 5th Annual Benzie County Water Festival

When: February 20, 21, 22

UPDATE: All kids events have been canceled due to the snowday. Please stay tuned for the rescheduled date.

As we do every year, we’re putting special emphasis on making sure that the younger generation is involved in the Benzie County Water Festival.

Nature Discovery Live Amphibian and Reptile Exhibit: A perennial favorite, the Nature Discovery display is back again for the 2015 Benzie County Water Festival, thanks to an ongoing partnership with the Benzie Conservation District. Nature Discovery is dedicated to enhancing awareness and sensitivity toward Michigan’s diverse living resources through natural science education. All 6th graders at Platte River Elementary will have benefit from the exhibit starting at 1pm until the end of the day at 3pm on Friday, February 20, 2015.

Jim McGrath: Jim is the founder of Nature Discovery, and he has a degree in wildlife biology from Michigan State University. With more than 25 years of experience as an interpretive naturalist, he is a weekly specialist Michigan natural science teacher at Montessori Children’s House in Lansing, Stepping Stones Montessori in East Lansing, and Okemos Nursery School in Okemos. He also offers special classes for youth through Lansing Community College. A strong lifelong interest in the natural world, coupled with an enthusiasm to share knowledge with others, is key to Jim’s popularity with students of all ages.

Carol McGrath: Carol has a degree in biology from the University of Illinois, Chicago. After working for several years as a chemist in the private sector, she has turned to working with her husband, Jim, in wildlife education, as well as other aspects of science education. Carol is currently contracted by Fairview Elementary School in Lansing as their specialist science teacher. Her detailed knowledge and hands-on approach are consistent with the Michigan Essential Goals and Objectives for Science Education. She also teaches many youth-oriented classes through Lansing Community College. Carol’s love of science is infectious to all students at the elementary, middle, and high school levels.
To learn more about Nature Discovery, Jim, and Carol, call (517) 655-5349 or email naturedisc87@gmail.com.

Benzie County Recycling and Solid Waste: Marlene Wood, Benzie County’s recycling and solid waste coordinator, is again visiting elementary schools in Benzie County throughout the month of February to show everyone how easy it is to take the ‘recycle journey.’ The journey begins when we walk down the aisles of the super market, putting products into our shopping cart. It can end when we throw away our empty packaging on garbage day. She will also be teaching students about the importance of clean water and conserving natural resources by recycling and composting. She will be bringing in a compost bin and active worm farm to demonstrate composting of food waste and vermiculture practices. Students can take the “water taste test’ (tap vs. bottled). They will be asked to take the ‘water pledge’ and sign a water droplet for a wall display at the Water Festival; by pledging, students are vowing to use less water and be more conscious about how they use water. Marlene will also be distributing personal invitations to go home with students inviting their families to this year’s Water Festival events and activities. Last year, Marlene was able to visit all of the Benzie County elementary schools and reached approximately 1,125 students with her valuable presentation and information! (Snowdays this year have made it a little trickier.) In addition, Marlene will also be setting up her display at Platte River Elementary on Friday, February 20, 2015.

Benzie Conservation District: Mike Jones from the Benzie Conservation District will be setting up an aquatic bugs display.

The live amphibian and reptile display, along with the recycling and aquatic bugs activities, have been among the most popular parts of past Water Festivals, with kids and adults alike taking turns holding all kinds of Michigan frogs, snakes, and salamanders. If your child attends one of the other elementary schools, not to fret! The recycling exhibit and the critters will be open for all kids from 3pm until 7:30pm, once the school day has finished. Help to spread the word about the kids activities, and come get your hands on some scaley and slimey friends!

Benzie Shores District Library: Miss Ashley, the Library’s new youth coordinator, will be reading snow stories and helping with snow crafts for ages 3-5 at 10am on Saturday, February 21, 2015. Any and all kids are invited to make snow sculptures in the park just outside the Library.


Hans VanSumeren speaking at the High School is rescheduled with a date to be determined.

This year, the Benzie Community Water Council is proud to announce a new scholarship fund for one Benzie County student toward attendance at the Great Lakes Water Studies Institute at Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City. Funds are being raised for this scholarship, which students will be able to apply for later this month. (More details to be announced after fundraising efforts are over.)

Hans VanSumeren, director of the Water Studies Institute, will be speaking with science classes at Benzie Central High School on the afternoon of Friday, February 20, 2015. During his career prior to the Water Studies Institute, Hans performed extensive water-related research from Maine to the Florida Keys, as far west as the Hawaiian Islands, and all the way to the bitter north of the Alaskan Bering Glacier. His latest adventure — creating the only Freshwater Studies program in the nation — is innovatively using education to combat the global water crisis. For years, Has was a water researcher at the University of Michigan and one of the most highly regarded underwater vehicle pilots in the nation. In 2008, he made one of those big career decisions that is befitting of an adventorous professional ready for change: he left the University of Michigan, the renowned Big Ten instiution where he’d spent 20 years as a scientist and a pilot in the Ocean Engineering Laboratory, instead taking a new post in Traverse City as the director of the fledgling Water Studies Institute. Read more about Hans VanSumeran at Circle of Blue.

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Our 2015 panel of water experts will be speaking to the idea of “access to water.” The panel will be at the Elizabeth Lane Oliver Center for the Arts in Frankfort from 1-3pm on Saturday, February 21, 2015.

Panel Moderator
Kelly Thayer: Kelly is the campaign coordinator for FLOW for Water.

Betsie Lake Utility Authority (BLUA) wastewater treatment plant: serves City of Frankfort and Village of Elberta
Kurt Luedtke: BLUA board member
Ernest Elliot: BLUA plant operator
Kurt and Ernest will be discussing water rates and the price of water in our communities.
Todd Neiss: Since 2003, Todd has been a recreation specialist in the Parks & Recreation Division of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources from their offices in Cadillac. He has a B.S. in forestry from Michigan Technological University. His roles and responsibilities include promoting and providing assistance with the management of all types of recreational trails (both motorized and non-motorized) in northwest & southwest Michigan. He has worked with various DNR personnel and numerous focus groups in the development of the DNR’s 2013 Statewide Comprehensive Trails Plan. This plan will help guide the DNR, and their recreational trail users, to enjoy the many benefits of our state’s great natural resources. He will be speaking on our panel about these “water trails” and the kind of access they grant to users. Phone: (231) 775-9727 ext 6045 neisst@michigan.gov
Ed Hoogterp: Ed is the former chair of the Crystal Lake Watershed Association. He is a retired journalist with more than 30 years of experience in environmental topics like agriculture, transportation, land use, and tourism. He is currently consulting and grant writing for the Betsie River-Crystal Lake Watershed Management Plan.
Aubrey Ann Parker: Aubrey is outreach coordinator for the Benzie Community Water Council, so if you follow us on Facebook or you get our emails or you have read our stories in the local papers, that is all stuff that Aubrey works on for the Water Festival. When she’s not volunteering for us, Aubrey is helping with other local projects like the Betsie Bay Frozen 5k and The Betsie Current newspaper. For nearly six years, Aubrey has worked for Circle of Blue, a Traverse City-based news organization that reports on the global freshwater crisis. She wil be speaking on our panel about the Detroit water shutoffs, the Toledo toxic algae blooms, and tap water access on the Navajo Nation.

(information coming later)