By Wally Kennedy
Bored with spending another Saturday mowing the lawn? Do you worry that your plans of having any summer fun with your children will be spoiled by the outrageous cost of gasoline?
The Wildcat Glades Conservation and Audubon Center could ease the boredom and your worries Saturday with the Shoal Creek Water Festival.
A duck race, children’s fishing clinic and river cleanup are among the activities that will be part of the event, which is free and open to the public.
“In planning the water festival, we wanted to engage children and adults by getting them in, on and around the water to learn in real hands-on, field-based activities, said Robin McAlester, director of the center. “The festival will offer many of these opportunities for the public to enjoy throughout the day.”
The highlight of the festival will be the duck race, which is set for noon. Plastic ducks will be dumped into Shoal Creek at the boat ramp of Wildcat Park and will float to the low water bridge in McIndoe Park.
The person who purchased the duck that arrives at the bridge first will receive a 15-foot Pelican canoe. Other prizes will be randomly awarded to later finishers of the race. Tickets for each duck are $10 and may be purchased at the Heron’s Nest Nature Store at the Audubon Center, located south of Joplin on Highway 86. Only 250 ducks are available.
The day’s events will kick off at 8 a.m. with a river cleanup and a children’s fishing clinic.
The river cleanup will be coordinated by the Wildcat Glades Stream Team, but is open to anyone interested in participating. The cleanup will be limited to the portions of Shoal Creek that flow through the park. A boat will be stationed in the creek to pick up trash collected by participants on land and wading along the river banks.
While equipment will be provided, it is recommended that participants wear wading boots or shoes that can get wet. Each participant will receive a Missouri Stream Team T-shirt.
“One of the main focuses of the Audubon Center is on water quality and quantity issues,” McAlester said. “We, along with our partners, planned this year’s festival to bring more community focus and action to issues around water within this area.”
Those wishing to help with the cleanup are to meet at 8 a.m. at the pavilion in the lower portion of Wildcat Park, west of the center’s building.
The children’s fishing clinic, sponsored by the Department of Conservation, is open to children ages 11 and under. It will be held at Silver Creek, south of the center’s building.
The clinic is the only time fishing will be allowed in that portion of the park. Instruction will be provided in both casting and fly fishing, with certificates of completion awarded to participants.
Those taking part in the clinic will automatically be entered in a contest for the largest and smallest fish caught. Fishing-related prizes will be awarded to winners of the contest. Youngsters do not have to pre-register for the clinic.
The majority of the festival activities will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the lower portion of the park, near Shoal Creek.
At least 10 exhibitors will provide information on water quality issues, area watersheds, stream channelization, public water systems, water safety, summer skin care, the use of rain barrels and recreational water use. A food concession also will be available. The booths open at 10 a.m.
At 10:15 and 11 a.m., there will be guided river hikes. At 1:30 p.m., there will be a water-quality testing demonstration by the Wildcat Glades Stream Team. At 2 p.m., a water-rescue demonstration will be staged by the Newton County Search and Rescue Team.
The park’s features provide a water-rich place to stage a festival.
“Wildcat Park’s unique setting and water resources, the 3-acre pond, Silver Creek, Wildcat Spring and Shoal Creek, provide us a wonderful opportunity to offer high-profile, water-related programs and make a real impact on the water quality in our area,” McAlester said.
The festival is sponsored by Missouri American Water Co., the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the Missouri Department of Conservation, the Shoal Creek Watershed Partnership and the Audubon Center.
Details: Contact the Wildcat Glades Conservation and Audubon Center at (417) 782-6287 or visit the center Web site at www.wildcatglades.audubon.org.
By Wally Kennedy