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Monday, December 11, 2023

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Winter Haven Celebrates Local Waterways With 7 Rivers Water Festival

Winter Haven Celebrates Local Waterways With 7 Rivers Water Festival

by James Coulter

For more than 30 years, Keep Winter Haven Clean and Beautiful has been remaining true to its name by keeping Winter Haven clean and beautiful. Every Earth Day, they host their annual cleanup event at the Chain of Lakes, where they clear out nearly a ton of litter every year.

Being dedicated to water conservation, the 501 c3 non-profit organization regularly attends the annual 7 Rivers Water Festival in Winter Haven. This year, they set up a booth to offer shell painting and information about their organization’s efforts.

Rhonda Todd, Executive Director of Keep Winter Haven Beautiful, appreciated attending this year’s event. She was pleased by the turnout and the overall interest of attendees in keeping their community clean and beautiful.

“We have focused in Winter Haven on keeping our community clean, especially our waterways, and just making sure we are a beautiful community to help property values and health of our citizens,” Todd said.

She especially appreciated the overall diversity of the event and its many vendors. Aside from her organization, other vendors included city departments for water and mosquito control. Seeing so many other city departments and local organizations coming together to promote awareness for water conservation encourages Todd and the rest of her volunteers in her organization.

“I think it was a great event,” she said. “I think people were ready to get out again. We had some of the greater vendors here. The county did a good job of putting it together, so we were thankful to have the opportunity to be out here in the community…The setup was great, and the vendor selection was excellent. We had a lot of great county resources. Looking forward to coming again next year to a bigger event.”

The City of Winter Haven hosted its annual 7 Rivers Water Festival on Saturday in Downtown Winter Haven. Dozens of vendors representing various city departments and organizations set up in Central Park to educate on water conservation and safety.

This year’s event also offered tours of the water and waste water treatments plants, as well as boat tours on the Chain of Lakes with a focus on pollution and water conservation. Other activities included live music, arts and crafts, and food trucks.

Keeli Carlton, Water Conservation Specialist for the Winter Haven Water Department, was pleased with the overall turnout. The event experienced larger crowds in the morning and waned out through the afternoon. There were concerns about rain, but the weather remained clear, she said.

“The event was going great,” she said. “There were a lot of people out here concerned about their future water supply and loving the fact of what we are doing here…[Overall] The turnout has been good. It has been a nice steady crowd. It was busier this morning. Looked like it was going to rain earlier, but it never did.”

Even in spite of the ongoing pandemic with rising cases of COVID-19, the event more than exceeded expectations. More than enough people were willing to venture out and learn more about their local waterways and the many ways they can help protect and conserve them.

“Our community is really into our natural resources and our water features here,” she said. “It is a water-centric community. And I think people are really into water conservation, especially now with all of the development going on. Keeping water rates low, and people are into water…Next year, we hope to see a whole lot more as things start to open up a bit.”

Charlene Brutton has been attending the festival for the past three years. As the Recreation Coordinator for Polk’s Nature Discovery Center, she showcases many of the museum’sservices and exhibits. This year, she and her team handed out animal tracks snapping bandanas and promoted job opportunities at the museum.

Next week, the Discovery Center will be hosting its Public Land Day, where they will be providing instruction on basic plant removal, hosting a science walkabout tour, and offering a formal presentation. They will also be offering job and volunteer opportunities at the center.

Charlene loves attending the 7 Water River Festival. As a very talkative person, she loves meeting people, talking with them, and educating them about the Discovery Center.

“What I enjoy about it, it is very enjoyable,” she said. “You get to meet different people, and I love that. I am very talkable person…The participation with different groups and the communication with different people, I love it.”

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