Thank you for making the 2021 Festival such a success!


What a perfect day for an Okoboji Blue Water Festival


By Steve Weisman

OPA Publicity Director

When the brief storm rolled through around 3 a.m. the Saturday morning of the Okoboji Blue Water Festival with the wind, lightning, thunder and a little bit of rainfall, I worried about what the weather would be like for Saturday’s Festival. Then at daybreak, I warily checked out what the Weather Channel was showing for the day. Chances of thunderstorms in the morning, again in the afternoon and later during the evening…oh boy!

Yet, by the time I arrived at Preservation Plaza at 7:30 a.m. in preparation for the OPA annual meeting, things were looking up. The storm percentages were dropping, and chances were good that we’d get the day in. And that is exactly what happened! The storms fell apart, and all I can say is this: what a wonderful celebration the Festival turned out to be!

As more and more people arrived, I have never seen exhibitor row so busy with 40 exhibitors interacting with people throughout the day. In visiting with Terry Thomsen, President of the Iowa Great Lakes Fishing Club, he said, “Since the Festival began, this is the most people that we have seen and had stop by our booth. We signed up several new members and gave away a lot of product. We were busy the entire day. Other exhibitors I visited with felt the same way.”

By the time that the fishing seminar began, over 250 people waited for Dan Spengler to share “The Science of Fishing Lures.” It was really cool that over 60 youngsters were in the audience, all wanting to learn Spengler’s ideas on how science meets the fishing world. Spengler spent over 45 minutes sharing tips, techniques and demonstrating how to fish popular baits like the Shallow Cutter 90, the Berkley Hit Stick, the topwater Choppo, the Spy Bait 70 and finally the new Berkley Stunna jerk bait.

Then came the giveaways. Spengler had brought over $5,000 in Pure Fishing product. His goal? Give it all away! Rods, reels and tackle boxes went to the kids, while the rest of the crowd received samples of products. I knew it was a success, when 20 minutes after the fishing clinic, people were still engaged in talking with Spengler.

Throughout the day, laughter and excited voices took place at the Kids’ and Family Activities area. What a wide array of activities to keep the kids engaged. Drees was especially happy to see the interaction and learning going on at each of the stations. “It has grown each year, and the children look forward to it. They learn about watershed protection and clean water while having fun doing it. It is so important to engage the kids in this festival. They are tomorrow's guardians of our precious Iowa Great Lakes resources.”

The 1 p.m. session panel discussion focused on clean water ideas. One of the top topics dealt with nutrients in the soil reaching lakes and streams and ways that this type of pollution can be decreased. There is the obvious need for communication and that communication from farmer to farmer on best practices such as edge of field practices and cover crops is a key toward cleaner water. This led to a discussion on the need for infrastructure investment and where the money can come from. There is also a huge push on developing recreational opportunities on public lands, waters, rivers and streams. Iowans are wanting more outdoor recreation, and they are pushing for more water recreation. As a result, there is a huge push for river and water trails. All of this makes clean water that much more important.

By the start of the 3 p.m. keynote address by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., an overflow crowd sat in anticipation, and Kennedy didn’t disappoint. The highly acclaimed senior attorney and president of Waterkeeper Alliance, shared his history of leading the fight to restore the Hudson River and his environmental efforts throughout the world. One of his biggest points was that we as a people are the owners of our lakes and rivers. Throughout history these public waters have been important. We are truly the keepers of these resources. Twice during his presentation, he received standing ovations. His appeal to the crowd was “what WE can do together!”

As things wound down in the late afternoon, the anticipation began to build again for the musical entertainment highlighted by multi-Grammy award winner Colby Caillat. The crowd was huge and enthusiastic, the weather perfect for an open-air concert and the music, well, Colby Caillat was awesome. Her finale of “Brighter than the Sun” triggered a magnificent fireworks display over the waters of West Lake Okoboji, signaling the conclusion of a truly remarkable 2021 Okoboji Blue Water Festival.

Organizer Greg Drees was ecstatic about the entire day. “This day shows just how much people care about clean water in the Iowa Great Lakes area. Our hope is that we can take the emotional power of this day and continue it throughout the year. We need to continue to make strides in protecting our waters, and as Kennedy said, ‘What WE can do together’! Thanks to everyone who helped make this year’s Okoboji Blue Water Festival such a huge success. A big tip of the hat to Julie Peterson, co-chair, who volunteered hundreds of hours to the event. Finally,  I want to thank the many volunteers, vendors, panelists, musicians, speakers, our wonderful donors and all of the participants! See you all in August of 2022!”


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