Benzie County Water Festival

Dear <<First Name>>,

Of all the 326 million cubic miles of water on earth, only about seven-tenths of one percent is accessible to humans.

And since the human body is anywhere from 45 to 75 percent water by weight (depending on age and health condition), and the average person can survive just five to seven days without water under ordinary conditions, I’d say we can all agree that water is pretty important. Whether you are watering your lawn or buying groceries or leaving your lights on, most of the decisions you make every day ultimately relate back to water.

Living in Northern Michigan, we are blessed with abundant water supplies—and although this does not mean that we should take this precious resource for granted or that we shouldn’t educate ourselves on how our daily habits relate back to water—we should celebrate the water we are so fortunate to have all around us.

So, please, come to the first annual Benzie County Water Festival, a celebration and education event taking place this weekend.

Water Festival’s Rich History
The first Michigan Water Festival was held on the Straits in Mackinaw City in August of 2006 and drew in approximately 500 people from all over the state. Festival goers enjoyed delicious foods from local farms, kayaking excursions, tables representing a dozen non-profits, a youth art booth, speeches about the threats of pollution, diversion, and privatization, workshops on rain gardens and constructed wetlands, and a full bill of Michigan’s favorite folk, blues, country, and jazz musicians. The following year there was an overwhelming response to the first Grand Rapids Water Festival, with some 1,500 attendees enjoying performances by 10 bands and being inspired by as many speakers.

The Water Festival has moved to Kalamazoo and Traverse City, and even to the far north of Marquette. And now, this weekend, the Benzie Community Water Council is proud to bring the Water Festival to Benzie County.

Friday, March 19th
The festival kicks off Friday night at 6 p.m. with a film in the stunning, newly renovated Garden Theater of Frankfort. Waterlife is beautifully shot and focuses on specific environmental problems from Lake Superior to the Saint Lawrence Seaway: lamprey eels in Lake Superior, heavy metals in Lake Michigan, zebra mussels in Lake Huron, petrochemical waste in Lake Erie, toxic waste dumps near Lake Ontario, and the pending threat of Asian Carp from the Chicago locks.

Tickets are $5, and the proceeds from the showing of this documentary—which was well received at the Traverse City Film Festival in 2009—will go to the Friends of Betsie Bay, a local non-profit that promotes “a community in harmony with nature.”

After the film, the party moves to the Cabbage Shed in Elberta at 9 p.m. Again, a $5 donation is suggested, with proceeds to the support the Benzie County Water Festival. The sub-Prime Blues Band—consisting of an eclectic group of players—was one of the festival’s first supporting partners, playing a gig at the Shed for us back in January. Eat, drink, dance, and be merry: just don’t stay out too late, though…festivities start up again early in the morning!

Saturday, March 19th

Start the morning off right: yoga with Frankfort native Sarah Louisignau at the Studio on Main at 8 a.m. with donations going to the Water Festival. At 9:30 a.m. head over to the Frankfort-Elberta Elementary School for music with Kirby, “a unique mix of acoustic guitar, rich vocals, and harmonica wizardry.

The Benzie Community Water Council’s own Josh Stoltz will M.C. the opening ceremony, which starts at 10 a.m. The whole day’s events are free to the public (although donations are greatly appreciated!) Then, at 10:30, our first speaker takes the stage. Derek Bailey, tribal chairman for the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, will present on Asian carp in the Great Lakes.

At 11:30, we’ll take a break from the formal presentations, and festival goers will be invited to tour the many exhibits that will be set up in the elementary school, including:

  • Make a garden that can hang in your window with Lake Ann-native, Bill Nuske
  • Jam out with your own harmonica, complimentary of the BCWC and Kirby
  • Take the Water Pledge: learn how you can cut your personal water use
  • Eat some heart-warming, soul-mending soup, made from locally sourced ingredients and with tender loving care by the BCWC’s own Suz McLaughlin
  • Drink organic, shade-grown, fair-trade coffee from Mexico, and support water installation projects there, made possible by Traverse City’s Higher Grounds Trading
  • Recycle-art exhibit with Marlene Wood-Zylstra of the Benzie County Recyclers
  • If there’s any snow left, get outside and master your snow sculpting abilities in our snowman-making contest

From noon until 5:00 p.m., head over to the Crystal Lake Art Center to vote for your favorite water-themed art from Benzie County artists aged 12 and up. The voter-chosen winner will be announced later in the evening.

At 1:00, Rob Karner—a watershed biologist and biology teacher at The Leelanau School—will take the stage at the elementary school and speak on the importance of native plants.

Following him, at 2:00, Valerie Strassberg—a water resource engineer and international water-energy educator—will make the trek up from Ann Arbor to do a workshop on greywater systems and how you can implement one in your own backyard (Adobe PDF). Learn how to cut your household’s water usage and slash your water monthly bill! (Also at 2:00, the Benzie Shores District Library on Main Street will be featuring a water-themed story hour for little ones that might not want to sit through workshops.)

At 3:00, the Benzie Conservation District is sponsoring a rain garden workshop with the BCD’s own Carol Navarro and Carolyne Thayer—a landscape designer and owner of Designs in Bloom, and the president of Plant It Wild—who has designed a rain garden for the new Gateway Housing Project development on Forest Avenue in Frankfort. This workshop is designed for private homeowers interested in the basics of rain garden fundamentals and design. Come learn how to minimize the stormwater runoff that your yard is flushing into the Benzie County watershed nearest you.

At 4:00, the festival moves back to Main Street, where the morning began, to the Garden Theater. Cyndi Roper—the state director of Clean Water Action—will travel up from Lansing. Cyndi has played a leadership role in numerous successful water policy, environmental health, and waste issues in Michigan since 1995, and she has served on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Drinking Water Advisory Council. She came highly recommended to us by Benzie County’s own water warrior, Jim Olson.

At 5:00, the Garden’s stage will host a panel on water-related education in the Great Lakes region. Hans VanSumeren, the director of NMC’s new Water Studies Institute—the first program in the nation to award an Associate’s Degree in water studies—and Tom Kelly, executive director of the Inland Seas Education Association and captain of the Schoolship, will spearhead the discussion.

Sneak outside for a bite to eat, as the Benzie SEEDS program offers fresh, homemade pizza right outside the Garden’s doors. But make sure you’re back inside by 6:30, because you won’t want to miss the night’s closing act, as Northern Michigan’s favorite dynamic duo Seth Bernard and “Daisy” May Erlewine take the stage.

The founding father and mother of the folk music explosion that’s swept Northern Michigan over the past decade, Seth and May are singers, songwriters, and harmonizing musicians with a lot of soul. Passionate about their community and the natural world we’re all connected to, the couple has been an intricate part of each Water Festival that has taken place in Michigan—from the first one at the Straits of Mackinaw City back in 2006 to Benzie County’s own, five years later. Seth and May will encourage you to sing along to some fun and funky tunes—you may even dance a jig or two—and you’ll certainly leave with their message of positive change and collaboration imprinted onto you.

And if you just haven’t gotten enough, at 10 p.m. the party moves to a jazzy-bluesy-funky-after-glow at the Cabbage Shed, featuring Seth and May in one of their many side projects, Airborne or Aquatic, with fellow musicians that have in the past included: Dave Bruzza, Dustin Edwards, Susan Fawcett, Jake Robinson, Mike Shimmin, Dave Ward, and Luke Winslow-King). A $5 donation is suggested at the door. The band is always morphing, so we’re not quite sure who’s going to show up!

Sunday, March 20th
At Sunday mass, you’re likely to hear how water is connected to religion, as some Benzie County churches have agreed to give water-related sermons. It’s no surprise that water has a clear presence in biblical texts, as it is the building block of life itself. Remember: Jesus—who walked on water—was baptized in the holy River Jordan, and he turned water into wine.

The festival concludes on Sunday with a concert at the Cabbage Shed. At 3:00, Benzie County’s own Song of the Lakes will perform, with donations to benefit the Friends of the Benzie Bus. Song of the Lakes has been pleasing crowds with sea-faring tunes, Irish jigs, sultry Brazilian melodies, and bittersweet ballads since the early 1980s and they continue to be one of Northern Michigan’s most sought-after musical groups, and the BCWC is honored that they have chosen to partner with us and close out the first annual Benzie County Water Festival.

We hope that you’ll join us for some, if not all, of the weekend’s celebration and education events.

Frankfort residents and festival goers alike are encouraged to get outside and walk between venues—because did you know that it takes about a quarter of a gallon of water to drive just one mile?

Written by Aubrey Ann Parker. Parker is a Northern Michigan native and graduate of both Kalamazoo College and the University of Michigan. She is an editor, reporter, and data analyst for Circle of Blue, a Traverse City-based organization reporting the global freshwater crisis.

Help Spread the Word

There is still work to be done, money to be raised, and people to be made aware of the festival. If you know someone who wants more information, or someone who you think would enjoy the festival, please consider forwarding this email to them, or sending them to our fabulous website, where they can subscribe to our newslettermake a donation, and keep up on all the latest news. Also, please consider “liking” us on Facebook and suggesting your friends like us as well. Although our Facebook group is only one aspect of our campaign to get the word out, we see our Water Festival Event RSVP increasing every day as folks pencil us in on their calendars.

Once again, we thank you for your support, and we look forward to seeing everyone at the festival on March 19th.

-The Water Festival Board

A few of our Sponsors

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The Benzie County Water Festival seeks to attract, entertain, educate and activate individuals and groups within the community. The Water Festival is an event put on by the Benzie Community Water Council.

Benzie Community Water Council
670 Crystal Ave.
Frankfort, MI 49635