By Christopher Campbell
Weeks after Enbridge spilled one million gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River, the Arcadia Creek Festival Place hosted the Kalamazoo Water Festival.
“The oil spill definitely changed the potential mood of the Water Festival, from one of celebration to possibly anger at what’s gone on,” said Michael Beauchamp, both a festival coordinator and member of the band Red Tail Ring.
The festival was part call-to-action, part celebration. Speakers and booths were offered for individuals interested in transforming their community to a more active, connected citizenry able to protect its water.
Plenty of top-notch, Michigan musicians with fixated hearts and minds on celebration were present.
Beauchamp performed at the festival with Laurel Premo. Beauchamp is from the Lower Peninsula and Premo from the Upper’s wilderness. Together, they formed Red Tail Ring.
Later in the day came Who Hit John?.
“My band, Who Hit John?, is bringing our usual set of foot-stompin’ derelict old-time, but the Red Sea Pedestrians have actually written a new song that’s inspired by the Enbridge oil spill,” said Mark Duval, festival organizer and performer.
The Michigan folk scene was well represented at Saturday’s Water Festival. According to Duval and Beauchamp, the state’s folkers are a very close-knit bunch.
“I’ve heard over and over again from visiting bands and music fans that there is something truly unique here, in the way that all the bands are friends, how they support each other, play on each other’s CDs, collaborate, cross-pollinate and inspire each other,” Duval said.
“We’ve been trying to figure out why and how we’ve been so blessed for so many years. There’s very little competition, only camaraderie,” Beauchamp said.
“I also book bands for Cooper’s Glen Music Festival, and get CD submissions from national touring acts that charge many thousands for a one-hour set and I’m often disappointed with them relative to the regional talent I know,” Duval said.
The Starlight Six closed the night off with a two-hour set.
“The Starlight Six, whose members include Seth [Bernard] and May [Erlewine], seem to create community wherever they go,” Duval said.
“I learned years ago why May Erlewine can pack a 300-seat venue on a Sunday or Monday evening.”
Duval, who was a vital igniter for the festival’s launch, explained how the festival was an idea that he stole from Seth Bernard, who has helped organize water festivals in Grand Rapids, Traverse City and Marquette.
“Last year, I was enrolled in Landmark Education in Livonia, a seminar series for personal and professional development. My homework assignment was to create a community project,” said Duval.
The Water Festival was how Duval tackled his homework.
“I contacted Jeff Spoelstra at the Kalamazoo River Watershed Council, he said yes, and we were off and running,” said Duval.
The Kalamazoo River Watershed Council is a public, non-profit organization whose stated purpose is to work collaboratively with the community, government agencies, local officials and businesses to improve and protect the health of the Kalamazoo River, its tributaries and its watershed.
Proceeds from the Water Festival will be set aside for the next festival and Kalamazoo River Watershed Council programs.