The Benzie County Water Festival seeks to attract, entertain, educate and activate individuals and groups within the community. We will proudly feature world-class Michigan musicians, speeches from water luminaries, interactive multimedia projects and presentations, artisan foods and beverages, workshops, visual art, theater and dance, children’s activities, and connections to campaigns and projects to protect our water locally and address global challenges. The Water Festival is an event put on by the Benzie Community Water Council.
About Benzie Community Water Council
The mission of the Benzie Community Water Council is to insure that the waters of the county and the northwest corner of the state remain subject to the public trust doctrine, and are thus preserved and protected for the common good of the peoples and ecosystems they serve. It is our intent to work with any citizen groups and government entities committed to the common purpose of maintaining safe, clean and plentiful water for the equitable use of people, animals and plants.
Our Board Members
Josh Stoltz, Co-Chair
Josh was born in Traverse City and raised in the woods and wetlands of Northern Michigan by his city-hippy dad and farmer-redneck ma. After graduating from Central Michigan University with a degree in Broadcasting and Cinematic Arts, Marketing, and Advertising, he moved out West to chase his own tale and soon discovered his knack for building relationships. During his twenties, Josh opened several companies throughout Arizona and Florida before calling it quits just prior to turning 30. He spent the next couple years semi-retired, living on a school bus named The Future that was painted like the Earth and traveling the country.
In 2007 he married his soulmate, Christina, bought a house without tires or a steering wheel, and became the proud step-father of a now teenage boy, Isaac. In his spare time, Josh likes to tell stories or sleep.
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Jordan Bates, Co-Chair
Jordan lives in a warm basement somewhere in Benzie County. He graduated from the University of Michigan with a General Studies Degree, where he focused on English and religion, but also dabbled in whatever tickled his fancy. He is currently a news producer and web editor at a Circle of Blue (an international organization reporting on the global water crisis), as well as a website designer/programmer for Leelanau Communications.
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Suz McLaughlin, Board Secretary
Suz “Many Waters” McLaughlin wandered the Earth for countless years experiencing new places and interesting people, but always knowing when she finally set her roots in her future soul-home she’d be bound there forever. Twenty-five years ago, Benzie County became that soul-home as “Many Waters” had finally found that place to set her roots, binding herself to this land.
In setting her roots, she found that the need to enjoy, celebrate and protect this beautiful environment and it’s residents has become a life-long calling with many community faces. Fighting for the good of any cause is to have a vision of the future world one really wants to see and to become a part of that vision. Life and warp-speed changes can make that a bit intriguing, but a talent for juggling many life challenges usually keeps her out of trouble and very engaged in our community.
Nancy Kasperzak, Board Treasurer
Has been committed to projects of the “Commons” including organizing and developing citizens groups for Stuyvessant Park, New York, Metro Parks and Clear Water, Toledo, and Benzie County Water Council. Nancy Kasperzak is also President of the Foundation For Performing Arts.
Sarah grew up in Northern Michigan. She spent some time working through her undergrad, and finally realizing that was not where her spirit thrived, finished at Kalamazoo College with 3/4 degree in Fine Art Photography. She spent much of her 20s exploring a variety of interests and passions and after 8 years in the Pacific Northwest and Utah, she found herself back home during the fall of 2009. Pivotal experiences out west include 3 years as Assistant Director for a Grassroots Organizing Office for the Public Interest Research Group in Seattle, and as Conference Coordinator for the Global Nuclear Legacy Project, a project through the Seattle-based whistle blower protection non-profit Hanford Challenge. Through working in the social justice NGO realm she discovered and refined her skills in community and media connections and organizing.
Throughout her activism career, she stayed focused and centered with a regular yoga and meditation practice. Through this practice she discovered her strength in mind/body connections and has been a certified yoga teacher since 2008. She currently teaches yoga and telemark skiing, and practices permaculture in the Frankfort and Traverse City areas.
Aubrey attributes her enthusiasm for all-things-water to her Northern Michigan upbringing. Although trained in the sciences, Aubrey made a sudden switch to journalism a little over a year ago, and she isn’t looking back. In 2008, she completed a BA in Chemistry from Kalamazoo College and followed it up in 2010 with a BSE in Chemical Engineering and a BS in Spanish from the University of Michigan. Aubrey also spent seven months volunteering and studying abroad in Ecuador, where she not only took college classes but also taught high school chemistry and environmental ecology. As a Graham Institute Scholar of 2009, Aubrey traveled to Patagonia, Chile where she studied relationships between hydroelectric development projects and aquatic ecosystems. Also in 2009, Aubrey spent two weeks blogging for the Detroit Free Press while attending the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.
Her past data-analysis internships have included watershed erosion control practices, as well as algae fermentation for use as a biofuel. Currently, Aubrey is the news desk editor and data analyst for Circle of Blue, a Traverse City-based organization reporting the global freshwater crisis, where she highlights the relevancy and context of critical water data. You can visit her personal blog here.
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