There are two days each May where Colorado Mesa University’s campus is turned into the largest children’s water festival in the state of Colorado and the second largest festival in the nation. It’s two days where 2,500 fifth-graders will learn about the importance of water and get to interact with the professionals who perform those jobs each day. It’s two days to expose students to a college campus and plant the seed of higher education. It’s two days where nearly 375 water professionals from across the state come together to provide a hands-on experience for learners while teaching them what they know about water. It’s two days of learning the power of water and the importance of Colorado’s water in our nation. The event is hosted by three water providers on the Western Slope; the City of Grand Junction, Clifton Water District, and Ute Water Conservancy District.
On March 18th, the tough decision was made to cancel the 27th Annual Western Colorado Children’s Water Festival as a result of COVID-19 conditions in Colorado. The committee struggled with the decision because the festival is a valuable experience for educators and learners on the Western Slope to experience the importance of of of Colorado's most precious resources - water.
Many factors were considered when deciding to cancel the festival, and the first and foremost priority was to protect the health and safety of all involved in the success of the event. The committee also looked to other stakeholder's decisions - the school districts and Colorado Mesa University - and wanted to ensure that the festival was respecting, supporting, and doing its part to join them in preventing the spread of COVID-19 while abiding by Governor Polis and President Trump's requests to reduce large gatherings.
It’s almost a month from the date in which the 27th Children’s Water Festival would’ve taken place. In a “normal” year, we’d be finalizing presenter registration and gearing up to begin scheduling. Boxes of supplies, resources, and volunteer t-shirts would begin piling up. The final walk-through with the university would be taking place. Presenters would be tweaking their hands-on presentation and anticipating another successful festival. Teachers and students would begin solidifying their plans to attend the highly-anticipated festival that has become, in a sense, a “rite of passage” for many fifth-graders.
But we all know this isn’t a “normal” year. Events that are anticipated all year (like the Children’s Water Festival) or anticipated for a lifetime (like graduations and weddings) are being moved or canceled because of COVID-19, which is a valid and necessary reason. For the Children’s Water Festival, it allows us to take a year to engage new presenters, revamp presentations, and brainstorm how we can elevate the largest water festival in Colorado.