By Steve Weisman
Another year has flown by. That seems to happen more and more the older I get! As we head into this New Year, I wish all of you best wishes for a great New Year! I hope that we Iowans can continue the push for more “best practices,” when it comes to conservation and water quality.
Here in the Iowa Great Lakes, we had the opportunity to be part of a week-long conservation effort culminated by the Okoboji Blue Water Festival on Saturday, August 13 in Preservation Plaza at the Arnolds Park Amusement Park. Earlier in the week, a special soil health field day was held to showcase “best practices” in conservation on local farmland.
This was followed by the Prairie Lakes Conference, the first of its kind in northwest Iowa. Over 160 people attended the conference, which was held at Arrowwood Conference Center and featured world-renowned speakers that presented up-to-date water quality topics and issues that relate to all Iowans.
According to John Wills, Clean Water Alliance Coordinator and a member of the planning committee, “I think the Prairie Lakes Conference really brought clean water home. Many of the attendees were impressed with the quality of speakers and the information presented. We had a conference that many large cities would have been proud of but then again, for us it’s all about water.“
As for the Okoboji Blue Water Festival, to say it was a success is definitely an understatement. It has been estimated that over 7,000 people were in attendance that day to enjoy the conservation “fair” that included activities for kids, a line of tents housing water quality exhibitors, three fishing seminars and a Water Quality panel discussion. That evening over 5,000 enjoyed the Boz Scaggs concert. Individuals, businesses and municipalities all joined forces to help sponsor the festival through donations and as volunteers.
According to Greg Drees, event chairman for the festival, “The inaugural Okoboji Blue Water Festival was a huge success. With 30 water quality exhibitors, clean water-themed kids’ and family activities, fishing clinics and a distinguished panel of speakers, it was a full day of raising public awareness of the importance of protecting water resources in the Iowa Great Lakes and across the state. It ended appropriately with a celebratory concert on stage with the legendary Boz Scaggs, who acknowledged the striking beauty of the venue.”
Looking to 2017
The good news is this week-long conservation effort is back for 2017. The Prairie Lakes Conference Planning Committee has announced that the Field Day will be held on August 9, followed by the two-day conference on August 10-11. The theme for the 2017 conference will be “Where Land and Water Meet.” Wills shared his excitement for the 2017 event. “When you pair the conference with the concert, which is on that Saturday, we have a week of education, fun and family activities that almost anyone can get something out of. We are in the process of contacting potential presenters for 2017 and will give updates periodically as the program comes together.”
Drees is also looking forward to the 2017 event. “We will stage the second annual festival on August 12 with the goal of making the event even better. We know how we can tweak the activities to be even more family-friendly, and, of course, we will remain true to the original message of water quality awareness. Committees are at work now to attract noted speakers to discuss clean water issues, and another big name musical act will again be the culmination of the festival.”
(photos by Steve Weisman)