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Twenty years of Durham Children’s Watershed Festival

The Durham Children’s Watershed Festival, will mark its 20th anniversary Sept. 25 to 29. From left to right, festival coordinator Yvonne Storm; David Marshall from sponsor Cargill; Janice Badgley of sponsor TransCanada; and CLOCA chair Don Mitchell try out the new augmented reality sandbox, which one of the many activities at the festival. (Photo by Dave Flaherty).

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

A long-standing local event is marking an anniversary and a bit of an identity change this fall.

The Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority (CLOCA) will host the 20th annual Durham Children’s Watershed Festival Sept. 25 to 29 at Camp Samac in Oshawa.

Some may notice the festival is featuring a new moniker this year, and organizer Yvonne Storm says this is to reflect how the event has grown over the past two decades.

Previously known as the Durham Children’s Groundwater Festival, the event has modernized itself to better represent its goals.

“The term ‘watershed’ encompasses all our water resources a little bit more,” Storm says. “My goal is have people understand what the watershed is all about.”

Even with the new broader name, the main principles of the festival remain.

It is anticipated approximately 4,500 Grade 4 students will attend the event from schools throughout Durham Region and there will be 35 different activities for students to experience, including a new simulated water drainage sandbox.

Featuring technology developed by Ryerson University, the interactive display allows users to create their own ‘watershed’, with the options of flooding or draining the area.

Unveiled earlier this year, the simulated water drainage sandbox earned CLOCA a Conservation Area Workshop Innovation Award from Conservation Ontario.

Storm says students will also get a hands-on opportunity to monitor the health of the Oshawa Creek, which flows through Camp Samac.

“You’ll see about 100 kids in the creek at one time. It’s pretty phenomenal,” she notes, adding they will also have a chance to “cheer on” salmon as they make their run through the creek.

Also new this year is an evening open to the public on Sept. 26 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. where all are welcome.

Diamond sponsors for the festival include Ontario Power Generation, TransCanada, RBC Blue Water Project and Cargill.

“As we celebrate our 20th anniversary of this wonderful educational event, we recognize that this legacy is only possible because of the continued and generous support our of financial and in-kind sponsors,” says Don Mitchell, Mayor of Whitby and chair of CLOCA.

Contributions from sponsors cover 75 per cent of operating costs, which Mitchell says makes attendance fees more affordable for students.

“We are happy to be a partner. It’s a really great day,” says Janice Badgley of TransCanada.

More than 77,000 students have participated in the festival since it began in 1998.

Anyone interested in supporting the festival through a financial or in-kind donation can contact Patricia Lowe, festival organizing committee chair at 905-579-0411 ext. 126.

For more information on the festival, visit groundwaterfestival.ca.