Walnut River Water Festival

Denise Noonan, Cowley Co. Farm Bureau, Enviroscape

Environmental Maze

Charles Jones, Carey Fieser, NRCS, Rainfall Simulator

Butler County 4H, Crystal Clear, the Water Drop skit

Smashing Truth about Soils

Stream Health

Stream health

Glenda and Mike's Magic Show - Glenda and Mike Mann

Travis Griffin, Butler Rural Electric, Electricity Safety

Glenda and Mike's Magic Show

Edible Aquifer

Water Jeopardy

Bubble Math Measurement

Exhibit Hall

Established 1998

General Information: 

School Based, 4th and 5th grades, 450 average each year, serves Butler County

Next Celebration Date: 
October 13, 2009

Butler Community College
El Dorado KS
9 AM to 2:30 PM

VIP tour available?: 

Sandy Koontz
Butler County Conservation District
(316) 320-5891

Dr. Bill Langley
Butler County Community College
(316) 322-3139

Festival Activities: 

Our MascotIncredible Journey, Edible Aquifer, Handwashing & Germs, Bubble Math, Mussels and Clams, Water Testing, Water Cycle Boogie, Water Taste Test, Composting, Smashing Truth about Soils, Edible Soil Profile, Enviroscape, Rainfall Simulator, Electrical Safety, Litter Naught Relay, Stream Trailer, Wild and Whacky Weather, Wonderful & Wild Water Animals, Crystal Clear, the Water Drop (skit), Water Quality Testing, Wastewater Treatment/Wetlands Field Trip, Landfill Field Trip, Recycle Center Field Trip, Glenda and Mikes Magic Show, Water Jeopardy, Household Hazardous Waste, Recycling, Recycle Art, Water Bowl Jeopardy, Stream Health, Desdemonas Splash (computer), Environmental Maze, Watersheds

Detailed Festival Information: 

In 1997, Dr. Bill Langley, Biology Instructor at Butler Community College, attended a conference where he learned that other states were promoting water festivals to educate children about the importance of water and protecting our natural resources. Dr. Langley approached the Butler County Conservation District's Non Point Source program to solicit support in organizing a festival in Butler County. Sandy Koontz, the Water Quality Coordinator and Dr. Langley began to formalize a plan to hold the first festival at the college in May 1998. They researched several established water festivals including the Colorado and Nebraska events and used many of their ideas and suggestions in establishing the Walnut River Water Festival.

Our 12th festival was held October 2008. The Walnut River Water Festival has educated over 5,600 students so far. The number of people reached is even greater when you figure student volunteers, teachers and parents that attend. The students from the first festivals held are now juniors and seniors in high school. Several teachers and administrators have told us that the water festival is something their students look forward to each year. It is now a tradition for their school to attend the water festival. Some teachers have been with us from the beginning.

We have been very fortunate to have financial support from local businesses to continue holding water festivals each year. We also have a great group of volunteers from Butler Community College Life Enrichment (a senior citizen group) that help put on the festival by stuffing litter bags, helping at the registration desk, exhibit hall and serving lunch.

Another benefit we now have is that Butler Community College has a partnership with Emporia State University training tomorrows teachers. It is called the BEST Program. The program allows students to take classes at Butler as well as Emporia to earn their teaching degree. The Conservation District provides a partial scholarship to prospective teachers to attend a Project WET workshop before the Water Festival. This gets Project WET materials into the hands of prospective teachers. The added benefit to the Water Festival is that these prospective teachers help present various sessions during the water festival using some of what they learned in the Project WET workshop. In turn, these students get some hands on experience working with students in a classroom setting. This has been a wonderful addition to our Water Festival.

Some challenges we have faced over the years:

  • Trying to find the best date to hold the festival. Our first few festivals were in May because that is when Butler CC was in between spring and summer sessions and we had unlimited access to college facilities. We ran into problems with some of the schools getting out early for the summer and not being able to attend, so we moved the festival to October. This was a good move in some ways, not so good in other ways. We have to hold the Festival on the Colleges in service days when class is not in session. This limits the rooms and buildings we have access to for the festival. Some schools no longer attend because they only take field trips in the spring.
  • Presenters that are late, sick, dont show up, etc. We have learned that it is best to have some back up plan for presenters that for whatever reason dont show up. We have several short videos on water quality that are kid friendly and at least will entertain the students for that session. We also have an exhibit hall and students can spend more time in there if need be. We try to have some back up presenters as well that can fill in if need be.
  • Grants are very useful when first putting a festival together, the first year or two. Grant money usually cant be guaranteed every year, so if you can find local support, it will be to your advantage.
  • Anything you can get for free, take advantage of! Sometimes you just have to ask. They can always say no.
  • Plan for rain! If you have outdoor activities, have something else for the students to do in case rain becomes a problem. Have classrooms set aside for outdoor presenters.

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