Okoboji Blue Water Festival returns for 2021

Tuesday, April 6, 2021
Grammy-winning pop singer and songwriter Colbie Caillat will be the headliner at the 2021 Okoboji Blue Water Festival scheduled for Saturday, August 7 at the Preservation Plaza stage. (Photo submitted)

Grammy-winner Colbie Caillat to headline

After a one-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Okoboji Blue Water Festival is back for 2021, and from all indications, it will be bigger and better than ever. Mark your calendar for Saturday, Aug. 7 for what promises to be an unbelievable day partaking in all of the activities that make the festival the premier clean water event in the state of Iowa.

Held at the Preservation Plaza green space in Arnolds Park, the Okoboji Blue Water Festival offers families fun-filled clean water activities and best of all, it’s free – all day.

Greg Drees, organizer of the Blue Water Festival shared his excitement for the upcoming event.

“After having to postpone our event in 2020, we are so excited to be able to resume the festival this year," Drees said. "The day’s activities commence at 9 a.m. and run to about 3 p.m. As always, our goal is to raise public awareness of water quality issues in the Iowa Great Lakes and beyond. We have the framework all worked out and want to let folks know what will be happening. Specific times will be released as we get closer to Aug. 7.”

Using the winding sidewalk in the green space near the plaza, more than 30 exhibitors ranging from lake protective associations, non-profits and conservation organizations will be spaced out answering questions and sharing their clean water stories. At the same time, a designated area will be reserved for the kids’ and family activities.

“We have a committee devoted to developing a dozen or so watershed education stations for parents and children," Drees said. "When we can make the stations both educational and entertaining, youngsters show a keen interest in enhancing our natural resources. After all, they are the future of that guardianship.”

For anglers both young and old, a special fishing seminar will take place at 10:30 a.m. under the Big Tent. This year’s clinician will be Dan Spengler, senior bait development engineer with Pure Fishing.

Another often-popular component of the day is the panel discussion on important clean water topics, which will take place at 1 p.m. under the Big Tent. This year’s panel is a distinguished group of clean water experts.

"We have a wonderful lineup of speakers from around the State of Iowa — Adam Schneider, who is the Water Quality Coordinator for the DNR; Nathan Anderson from Practical Farmers of Iowa; Sylvia Secchi from the University of Iowa, from the Sustainability Department; Dr. Larry Weber, who is also from the University of Iowa and an Expert Hydrologist; David Thoreson, Worldwide Traveler and Photographer; Rich Leopold, who heads the Polk County Conservation Board; and Joe McGovern from the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation."

Shortly after the panel discussion, keynote speaker Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., world renowned clean water advocate, will take the stage under the Big Tent.

“All people need to know about Kennedy is that he has spent his entire adult life traveling the globe talking about water," Drees said. "Everything is focused on water, and we're just really excited about this part of our festival."

As the day winds down, crowds will likely be waiting for this year’s concert on the Preservation Plaza stage. JD McPherson will be the opening act at 6:30 p.m., followed by multi-Grammy pop singer and songwriter Colbie Caillat.

“We are so excited for this year’s festival," Drees said. "As always, this event is brought to the public all day and all free of charge. None of this could happen without all of the businesses, organizations and individuals who have given so generously and have volunteered their time and talents to make the 2021 Okoboji Blue Water Festival such a great event.”

The Festival was originally created by the Okoboji Protective Association in 2016 to raise public awareness of water quality in the Iowa Great Lakes. Founded in 1905, the OPA is a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection and enhancement of West Lake Okoboji and the entire Iowa Great Lakes watershed.

“We continue to work in partnership with the OPA and Historic Arnolds Park, Inc. to make the Okoboji Blue Water Festival the premier clean water event in the state of Iowa,” Drees said.

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