Hobart’s sixth annual Water Festival was held Saturday, June 17, featuring warm weather, Lake George, and a diverse group of business, community, and environmental groups educating the public about clean water, beaches, and ways to protect the environment around them.
Tim Kingsland, City of Hobart Stormwater Coordinator, described some of the main purposes and the importance of the event. “It educates the public to do what we can do to help the environment. It’s an outreach to the public in a way that educates how important our environment is, especially the quality of the lake in Hobart and our waterways in general. We also want to make it fun for kids and entertaining as well as educating them and their parents, and not just preach to the public. And all the activities and events, outside the food, are free.”
Kingsland also discussed the participation of many assisting parties. “Representatives from stakeholders in the environment, from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to interested business and community leaders.”
Among environmental and non-profit groups represented were the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM), Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and National Parks Service, Animals for Awareness, Moraine Wildlife Rescue, the Friends of Robinson Lake, and the Northwest Indiana Paddlers Association, who had free canoe paddling excursions on the lake.
Michelle Caldwell, Lake Michigan Beaches and Clean Marina Program Coordinator for IDEM, shared why she participates in the Water Festival every year. “Anytime we can engage the public, it’s important.” She continued with ways IDEM informs and serves our region, “We test for E Coli and notify the public, and maintain the beach guard website and the iPhone app, Indiana Beaches Alert. We’re particularly proud that it was the first app of its kind.” Other missions include “the Grand Calumet, the biodiversity of Lake Michigan, and prevention of shoreline erosion.”
National Parks representatives also were concerned about invasive species threatening biodiversity. “We’re concerned about them, Asian carp in particular, but also plants and other aquatic species,” said Anna Jones, Ranger and Asian Carp Educator.
Mariah Campbell, Seasonal Park Ranger, had her friend Cleo the Turtle with her at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore booth. “Cleo the Box Turtle was found 25 years ago in Miller Woods. She is an ambassador for native species to schools and events like this. We also want people to be able to share the park and be fully aware of the National Park in their backyard.”
Part of the entertainment and educational efforts were the Potawatomi Dancers and Pokagon Band, with explanations of dances before and after each were performed. Later, a traditional water blessing ceremony took place where tribal women blessed the lake for its purity and ability to sustain life in and around it. The Potawatomi Tribe were among the first human inhabitants of the Hobart area.
Other performers included Hobart High School’s Wolfgang Singers girls singing group and the Dumpster Drummers from the Lake County Waste Management Authority, who got children in the audience involved with percussion on recycling materials, and had the adults entertained with their steel drum-centered stylings.
Sherryl Doerr, City of Hobart Education and Outreach Facilitator, summed up the festival’s key values. “The festival has provided the community with education about water pollution prevention, water conservation, and recycling; along with information on invasive plants, rain gardens, and pollinators. [It] allows the opportunity for people who are concerned about the environment to have a forum to ask questions and have them answered by environmentalists.”
Supporting businesses included NWIndianaLife partners Ozinga and Team Chevrolet, as well as many donors and sponsors like Albanese Candy Factory; Butler, Fairman & Seufert; Cabela’s; Chick-fil-A; Family Express; Hanson Logistics; the Lake County Solid Water Waste Management District; Lawson-Fisher Associates, P.C.; Ratio Architects, Inc.; and Sharp School Services.
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