The SPLASH Floating Water Festival, now in its fifth year, is a feast for the senses at distinctive events around the lake. Each event celebrates connections to Lake Simcoe and local flavour. They pilot new ideas, build new relationships, conduct research, unite the arts and the environment, advance experiential tourism and add local economic returns.
The SPLASH rationale is that the more meaningful experiences we all have with water, the more positive memories created, the more we care. Behavioural change begins with emotion.
The SPLASH Festival is the first project of the Ontario Water Centre, an educational organization with CRA charitable status established in 2012. OWC, now in start up, has been nurtured by the Ladies of the Lake Conservation Association who have now merged with it.
The Ontario Water Centre has a balanced portfolio of projects to help people feel more connected to water, and protect and restore water in ways that stimulate the economy and benefit communities (see www.ontariowatercentre.ca).
The idea of the SPLASH Floating Water Festival was hatched as part of suggestions by citizens that Lake Simcoe needed a place or entity to help connect people to water. Following this idea in The Naked Truth Citizens’ Action Plan to Save Lake Simcoe, the Ladies of the Lake (LOL) formed a Steering Committee, and a pre-feasibility study was supported by the Town of Georgina and South Lake Community Futures Development Corporation (SLCFDC). With the idea confirmed, the Town of Georgina included the Ontario Water Centre (OWC) in its Socio-Economic Strategy; and York Region added OWC to its Economic Development Action Plan. The report also suggested a water festival to demonstrate the water centre’s principles while further planning got underway.
The Ladies of the Lake, with Ontario Trillium Foundation support, spearhead the first SPLASH Floating Water Festival on August 17 in De La Salle Park, Jackson’s Point. The new festival married science and the arts, connected people to water, health and food, and celebrated Lake Simcoe. It attracted 2,000 people, and it was fun!
The second SPLASH Festival, now proud winner of an LSRCA award for excellence, expanded to two locations on two days, August 17th and 18th in De La Salle Park and York Region’s Metro Road Forest. The Ontario Water Centre’s strategic planning continued. The vision became: Advance Water Thinking. The mission: nurture water thinkers, engage people, create ripples. The educational organization received charitable status from the Canada Revenue Agency.
The SPLASH Festival’s third year was four refreshing and cool events in four locations developed through collaborative partnerships. They invited Festival-goers to participate, explore and celebrate their own connections to the land, water, forests and food.
The Ontario Water Centre planning group, now expanded to include members from academia and business, began developing a financial and business plan that quantified the economic, environmental and social benefits OWC would deliver.
“The 2012 Splash Festival was a huge success and having seen the plans for the 2013 event, I know that it is only going to be bigger and better. it truly is a collaborative effort with benefit to multiple stakeholders and communities. In addition, Splash is committed to providing visitors unique experiences.” - Chuck Thibeault, Executive Director, Central Counties Tourism (Zone 6 Regional Tourism Organization)
In 2014 SPLASH was excited to welcome “Celebrate Lake Simcoe” to the family as the first SPLASH on the west side of the lake. It kicked off the 2014 summer season on Saturday, July 26th at Innisfil Beach Park in Innisfil by celebrating Lake Simcoe’s past (focusing on the lake as it was in the 1920s) while connecting attendees to the future. Highlights were a charitable lake swim, a “temperance” dancehall with big band sounds, and bees and butterflies.
The second 2014 SPLASH event was “The Fantastic Forest Experience” on Saturday, August 9th at the Brown Hill Tract, York Regional Forest, East Gwillimbury. The spirits of the forests were in full regalia, and through music, arts and educational experiences, attendees came away full of appreciation for the powerful connections between forests, the health of our waters and their own health.
SPLASH at “Brock’s Big Bite” on Sunday, August 10th, on Simcoe Street in Beaverton, was alive with the power of community and collaboration with a long lunch down the middle of street surrounded by music and the arts connecting farming, food and water.
“The SPLASH Beach Bash” on Saturday, August 16th wound up the summer at De La Salle Park in Jackson’s Point, one of Lake Simcoe’s finest beaches. Fun, music and food beside the water was the plan, and while the event was rained out, those who braved the weather walked away loving Lake Simcoe and feeling GOOD!
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