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Children’s Water Festival – Planting the Seed

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5th grade students learned about native and non-native fish found in the Colorado River and the different roles they play in our river systems. Those brave enough locked lips with a sucker! Presenter: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

“It takes a village to raise a child,” a traditional African proverb, summarizes the dedication of our community in their coordination, support, and participation in our local children’s water festival.  Nearly 2,500 fifth-graders celebrated the end of their school year at the 20th Annual Western Colorado Children’s Water Festival.  This is an educational effort that ‘floods’ the Colorado Mesa University (CMU) campus with over 350 presenters and volunteers from across the state of Colorado and from as far away as Canada.  Over the course of two days, students from public, private, and homeschool institutions learn about a diverse range of water-related topics including conservation, drought, water law, riparian and aquatic life, human health, weather, recreation, agriculture, and much, much more!

The indoor and outdoor presentations align with the State of Colorado’s fifth grade education standards and cover a wide range of curriculum areas including language arts, math, science, social studies, visual art, and health.  Students participate in structured presentations that give them an opportunity to relate what they learned in the classroom during their water curriculum to the hands-on experience of the festival.  Every presentation is taught by a water expert which exposes the students, in a unique and personal way, to a wide variety of professions, whether it be a water resource engineer, water attorney, heavy equipment operator, meteorologist, farmer, or treatment-plant operator.  The festival is held at CMU in an effort to endorse and encourage the idea of furthering the students’ education.  Over 30% of the local graduating high school students, from Mesa County Valley School District 51, attend CMU in their quest for a higher education.  For many fifth grade students, this is their very first opportunity to visit a university campus.  The campus is flowing with a sense of pride and inspiration as students are navigating around campus and sitting in lecture halls.

Central Colorado Water Conservancy District, in northeastern Colorado, coordinated the very first children’s water festival within our headwater state and is one of the oldest water festivals in the nation.  It was soon after that the founders of the Western Colorado Children’s Water Festival had the seed planted in our local community.  The festival has grown to be recognized not only as the largest water festival in the state but has also become a poster child for community participation and support.  The City of Grand Junction, Clifton Water District, and Ute Water Conservancy District are the underwriters and foundation for the festival.  However, the growth and success of this event over the past 20 years, has been heavily supported by local businesses within our community.  The three municipal water providers work in collaboration, along with the thousands of dollars raised in sponsorship, to ensure that this festival is offered at no cost to the participants.

The Children’s Water Festival Committee, consisting of representatives from various local organizations, begins their coordination efforts immediately following the conclusion of the event each year.  Fifth grade teachers from Rifle, Parachute, DeBeque, Delta, Gateway, and the entire Grand Valley wait in anticipation for the registration process to open.  This year, the committee was able to plan the theme of 20th anniversary around the Drought Response Information Project’s (DRIP) “Join the Flock” marketing campaign.  The children’s water festival became the platform that launched the campaign by incorporating “Flo the Flamingo” into every possible visual element of the festival.  The “Join the Flock” campaign is designed to create unification within the community by encouraging consumers to adopt efficient use of our limited water resources.  “Flo the Flamingo” was chosen as the ambassador for the campaign because, just like most of the large water consuming landscapes found in the Grand Valley, flamingos are not native to our community. DRIP will be handing out hundreds of pink flamingos throughout the summer at community events such as the Downtown Grand Junction’s Farmer’s Market and the Mesa County Fair.  Visit their booth for an opportunity to “Join the Flock”.

Originally wrote by Joseph Burtard for the July issue of GV Magazine.

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