2015 Water Festival

Fifth Annual Benzie County Water Festival
Access to Water: A community water celebration during the weekend of February 20-22, 2015

The Benzie County Water Festival announces a new scholarship that will be funded in part from this year’s weekend of events, fun for all ages.

This year, the Benzie County Water Festival’s theme is “Access to Water,” and events will be taking place at multiple venues throughout the entire weekend of February 20-22, 2015. The Benzie Community Water Council (BCWC), which organizes the festival each year, is trying to reach a bigger and more diverse audience, from youngsters to outdoorsmen, from athletic enthusiasts to erudites. The major announcement this year, however, is that of a new scholarship fund. Proceeds from this year’s Water Festival will be funneled into an account for a Benzie County student to attend the Great Lakes Water Studies Institute at Northwestern Michigan College. What better way to promote environmental stewardship and water appreciation than to make the education of our local youth for a career in these fields more accessible and attainable? Attend any or all of the weekend’s events to make a contribution to the scholarship while enjoying some great programming!

Thanks to an ongoing partnership with the Benzie Conservation District and Benzie County’s Recycling and Solid Waste Program, the 2015 Water Festival will begin at 1pm on Friday, February 20, with kids’ activities for all 6th graders at Platte River Elementary. Activities will include 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 elementaries are invited to come with their parents once the school day is finished, from 3pm to 6pm. Also that afternoon, Hans VanSumeren, director of NMC’s Water Studies Institute, will be speaking with science classes at Benzie Central High School about his program and BCWC’s new scholarship.

On Saturday, the Big Fish Bonanza ice-fishing tournament begins with registration at 6:30am at Big Bob’s on Main Street in Frankfort. (Pre-registration for the tournament begins Thursday, February 19.) Weigh-in will be at 1pm with prizes awarded to biggest fish, perch, and trout. Prizes include a free month of bait and $150 shopping spree at Big Bob’s, courtesy of Captain Ben Wolfe from Sport Fish Michigan.

“This is a prime example of local businesses working together to help each other and our community,” said Josh Stoltz, BCWC co-chair. “I’m happy that fishing is part of this year’s event. Sportsmen and women have always played a big role in conservation and protecting water quality. In fact, it was a coalition of more than 400 conservation clubs throughout the state of Michigan that helped pass the bottle bill in 1976. In only six weeks, there were over 400,000 signatures collected. That’s pretty impressive for a bunch of folks who didn’t want to see empty bottles when they were out fishing and hunting.”

Also Saturday morning, registration for the fifth annual Betsie Bay Frozen 5k begins at 8:30am at Stormcloud Brewing Company on Main Street in Frankfort. Runners will be shuttled to the 10am start of the race at the scenic Elberta lookout and then will run back to downtown Frankfort along the beautiful Betsie Bay. An awards ceremony at Stormcloud will follow; all pre-registered runners are guaranteed a shirt and a medal with their $15 registration fee. Top male and female finishers in each age group get a special prize. With the help of more than 50 community business sponsors, one-in-three runners will take home a raffled prize valued at $50 or more. The 5k is run or walk, snow or shine, open to all ages, and dog friendly for friendly dogs It is a great way to get the whole family out and about during the snowy February days while supporting two great causes – proceeds will benefit local and global water initiatives including the BCWC and the Benzie County Water Festival, as well as On The Ground’s Chiapas Water Project in Mexico. Register online https://events.bytepro.net/betsie-bay by Friday, February 20, or at Stormcloud on race day.

“Teaming up with the Water Festival this year was a natural fit for us,” said Randi Lyn Stoltz, Betsie Bay Frozen 5k event organizer. “Proceeds from the race will benefit both global and local water projects. I’m grateful to all our sponsors and runners who make this 5k such a community success.”

At 10:30am on Saturday, the Benzie Shores District Library on Main Street in Frankfort is hosting kids activities with Miss Ashley. Children ages 3-5 are invited to come hear snow stories and make crafts.

From 1-3pm, the Elizabeth Lane Oliver Center for the Arts in Frankfort is hosting a panel of local water experts. Come learn about water access in all shapes and forms, from the growing number of “water trails” in our region to the Detroit water shutoffs this past summer, from upcoming increases in Frankfort’s municipal water rates to the fact that only 40 percent of Navajo people have tap water and indoor plumbing, from the toxic algal outbreaks that poisoned water for half a million Toledo residents last year to the universal right to clean water as a commons. Kelly Thayer of FLOW for Water will be moderator for the panelists, which include; Kurt Luedtke and Ernest Elliot from Betsie Lake Utility Authority (BLUA); Todd Neiss, a recreation specialist in the parks & recreation division of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources who promotes management of recreational trails throughout the state; Ed Hoogterp, former chair of the Crystal Lake Watershed Association and a retired journalist with more than 30 years of experience in environmental topics like agriculture, transportation, land use, and tourism who is currently consulting and grant-writing for the Betsie River-Crystal Lake Watershed Management Plan; and Aubrey Ann Parker, outreach coordinator for BCWC who has worked for nearly six years for Circle of Blue, a Traverse City-based news organization that reports on the global freshwater crisis.

Starting at 8:30pm on Saturday night, the Platte Plains Wolf Pack will perform at The Cabbage Shed in Elberta. A $5 suggested donation will be asked at the door, with proceeds to benefit BCWC’s future activities and the new scholarship fund.

Closing out the weekend’s festivities on Sunday morning, religious affiliations all over the county will be talking about the importance of water in scripture, from baptism to walking on water to turning water into wine.

Through our fundraising efforts, we will work hard to ensure that the Benzie County Water Festival is free and open to the public, however donations are encouraged and will help to fund future events.

BCWC is always looking for more sponsors and volunteers. If you are interested in helping, send an email to aubreyannparker@gmail.com and for more information, visit www.Water-Festival.org or find us at facebook.com/BenzieCountyWaterFestival.

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