Have you ever stopped and thought to yourself about the importance of the White River (or any Indiana waterway for that matter) and how it affects life in Indiana?
No? Me either.
The festival is a concentration of events in several communities in the Upper White River watershed with the river as the celebrant and focal point. Similar to the Spirit and Place Festival, the events vary from lectures to concerts to art exhibits to recreational activities.
“By drawing everyone’s attention, by everyone meaning the public’s attention, to the river in a concentrated timeframe, [we thought it] would be a great way of showcasing the river, said Mary Hayes , festival program director.
All of the events fall under one of the categories in the festival’s W.A.T.E.R.S. theme: Wildlife, Art, Training and Learning, Entertainment, Recreation, and Service.
“That was an idea from one of our partners to help the public sort of see the different kinds of events and how they fall out into those different categories,” said Hayes. “Those all represent really important aspects of the river that we want to highlight.”
The festival’s mission is to show why the White River is important, how it is and can be utilized, and to plant the seeds for conservation and advocacy in fun and interactive ways.
“Historically, we have not faced the river. It’s kind of been an invisible resource,” said Hayes. “ In the upper reaches, specifically in the Muncie area, it was a dumping ground for industrial waste.”
Until federal regulations determined what could and could not be put in a waterway, trash sewage and other waste also found its way to the river, putting the entire eco-system in jeopardy.
Hayes said because of generations of environmental abuse and neglect, the general public is unaware of how individual actions can affect the river and what that means for the present and the future.
“People don’t understand that their actions are connected directly to the river,” said Hayes. “So whatever I do in my backyard, my front yard, my driveway, that run-off when it rains will ultimately go into a storm drain which will, through several steps, ultimately end up in the river.”
The Upper White River watershed runs through 16 Indiana counties and is the main source of drinking water (once treated, of course) for most of the communities along the river. The processing of water to make it drinkable also has economic implications. “The more pollutants the water company has to filter out, it’s a greater cost that’s passed on to the customer,” said Hayes.
Although some might confuse the White River Festival with the White River Arts Music and Recreation Festival, or WARMFest, the two are different festivals with very similar missions. Therefore, WARMFest is the first event highlighted on the White River Festival’s 2-week calendar. But the White River Festival broadens its scope by pulling in a variety of other events and activities in other parts of the watershed territory.
Hayes said while the festival events are concentrated in Muncie, Anderson, Noblesville, and Indianapolis, the goal is t grow the festival to reach all communities in the watershed for greater education and awareness. A complete list of events is available on the festival website.