Thank you for making the 2019 Festival such a success!


Okoboji Blue Water Festival a Huge Success

By Steve Weisman

OPA Publicity Director

            The fourth annual Okoboji Blue Water Festival has been in the books for over three months, yet it’s still difficult to put into words the great success of this day. Simply put, it was the CLEAN WATER EVENT in the state of Iowa! There was literally something for everybody, and thousands of residents and visitors alike spent the day reveling in activities and events surrounding clean water. From sidewalk art murals, to family/kids’ activities, to 33 clean water groups/businesses lined along the promenade, to a fishing seminar, to a touring group of actors presenting “Nature,” to a panel on clean water issues and to an evening of great music highlighted by the music icon Bruce Hornsby…what more could you ask for?

            On a day when the weather forecast was for rain (as much as 85 percent at times), the rain stayed away! Greg Drees, organizer of the Okoboji Blue Water Festival, was ecstatic about the way things went. “I consider it a perfect day. There was a great crowd, and people had a great time experiencing everything about clean water. I want to thank all of the volunteers who worked so hard to make this event happen, all of the donors and sponsors whose donations made this an ‘ALL DAY-ALL FREE’ event for everybody and finally, the thousands of individuals and families who attended the Festival. Our goal is to showcase all of the great clean water efforts, while at the same time letting folks know there is so much more work to do. We all need to work together to make clean water a top priority.”

            Even with the forecast of rain, artists were at Preservation Plaza early turning the sidewalk into a huge colorful mural of clean water themes. The artists worked diligently, and their efforts were on display the rest of the day and into the evening.

            From the top of the promenade and down the hill, clean water businesses and individuals lined the sidewalk under white tents offering a fair-type atmosphere. By 10 a.m., visitors began to arrive, stopping and chatting with the clean water experts. At the same time, sounds of laughter and the delighted squeals of youngsters proved that the Family /Kids’ activities were a great success. Nine stations kept kids involved in seeing what’s in the water, catching “fish”, T-shirt printing, printing arts…all having to do with clean water.

            At 11:30 a.m., over 100 fishing enthusiasts entered the Big Tent to hear Dan Spengler, senior bait development engineer with Pure Fishing, share the bait making process from concept to reaching the public. In addition, Spengler showed those in attendance a variety of presentation tactics perfected through countless hours of practice and catching. Finally, each person received two hard baits, the Berkley Shallow Cutter 90 and the Digger 8.5, while youngsters in attendance also received packages of Powerbaits.

            As the fishing seminar ended, music and singing began to occur to the south of the Big Tent and Tiger Lion Arts, a troupe of actors, presented a portion of “Nature,” a walking play centering around the lives of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. As I watched, I felt myself mesmerized by the story and the acting/singing abilities of the troupe. Although only a 45-minute segment, it was well received. Tiger Lion Arts performed the entire play three times over the weekend at the Lakeside Lab.

            If there was a potential glitch to the day, it occurred two days before when Drees learned that keynote speaker Alexandra Cousteau had encountered a medical emergency and had to cancel her speaking engagement. Drees says, “It’s life, and unfortunately things like this happen. We regret any inconvenience this might have caused.” Resiliency is the name of the game, and in a matter of hours Drees had organized a panel of outstanding clean water experts to offer their insight to people who would attend the 3 p.m., panel under the Big Tent. Panelists included Mike Hawkins, Fisheries Biologist; John Wills, Director Dickinson County Clean Water Alliance; Joe McGovern, President Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation; David Thoreson, explorer and environmental/clean water advocate; John Lundell, Mayor of Coralville; Mary Skopec, Director of Lakeside Lab. Well over 100 people came to hear their thoughts, and the fact that the discussions went well over the allotted hour time period and the resulting applause from the appreciative audience, showed that the panel had done its job. A separate story will appear on the panel discussion in a future story.

            It was 4:30 p.m., and the day’s activities had concluded…but not the finale. There was still the music. Oh, yes, the music. As my wife and I relaxed until the music began, we sat along the shores of West Okoboji and marveled at the jewel we have right here. There is a reason why people come to the Iowa Great Lakes!

First the Firm, then Dave Mason (great entertainers) and as darkness enveloped Preservation Plaza, a break came with a meaningful video about clean water and our challenges sponsored by the Okoboji Blue Water Festival. Then the headliner, Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers…and the 2019 Okoboji Blue Water Festival was complete!