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Watershed center makes a splash with Waterfest

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NORTH BEND - What could possibly be more fun than water?

Nothing, at Spring Waterfest 2005.

The first ever family fun event to celebrate and learn about water's magical properties will take place at the Cedar River Watershed on the southern shore of Rattlesnake Lake on Saturday, May 14, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

During the free event hosted by Seattle Public Utilities, Bubbleman will entertain in his native bubble language, storytelling will take place inside a giant inflatable salmon, a procession of water-reliant wildlife will march through the festival and, of course, samples of water will be served.

The event will mark the Cedar River Watershed Education Center's opening day for this season's "Weekends at the Center." The center has been in operation for three years now and has all its exhibits and programming up and running, said Pierre DeBarge, a naturalist for Seattle Public Utilities. The watershed, located just east of North Bend at 19901 Cedar Falls Rd. S.E., provides water to more than 1.3-million customers in the Seattle metropolitan area.

"We said we need something about celebrating water, but also to help people become aware of different things we can do to save water - get out the utility messages, but do so in a festival format," said DeBarge.

Bubbleman, who prefers to dress all in purple, will arrive in his purple van with 400 pounds of bubble gear. The entertainer with a conservation focus will speak to children in bubble language.

Over at the 40-foot salmon storytelling tent, children will hear tales of local wildlife that rely on water. Ravens, bear, elk, cougars and other local critters dressed in capes, wings and colorful hats will parade about the inflated parachute tent sewn together to look like a salmon. Kids will have a chance to don their own animal costumes and follow the leader.

Visitors will also have the opportunity to tour the native plant education center and mingle with Burt the Salmon, a close friend of Seattle Public Utilities. Musical offerings for the day will include Jonathan Betz-Zall, a singer/song writer from Seattle, the Issaquah Choral Singers and other musicians performing water-themed pieces.

Activities will be repeated throughout the day, so visitors can drop in at any time.

Gov. Christine Gregoire declared a drought emergency on March 10 and revamped conservation efforts are already trickling into many Puget Sound communities in preparation for the dry summer ahead.

"We're trying to get the word out to Seattle and the other 26 communities we serve water to," said DeBarge, who noted Waterfest is not an outgrowth of Western Washington's parched predicament - it's mostly just an opportunity to give a shout out to water.

"There's loads of volunteers coming to help us out," DeBarge said. "We're really excited. We do want to provide practical, easy household water conservation techniques and get kids excited with water stories."

By showing children the source of their drinking water at the watershed they start making a connection between what comes out of the tap and its source, which can prevent them from taking water for granted, DeBarge said.

"We do believe that when kids learn to do things habitually like wearing seatbelts or recycling, it becomes second nature. Water conservation is something that if you learn to do it regularly, it becomes a regular part of your consciousness," said DeBarge.

Visitors will also learn what becomes of puddles, what shape a raindrop takes and how bubbles are born, while taking in water saving demonstrations and exploring neighborhood connections between watersheds, salmon, drinking water and themselves. For grownups, there will be free water-saving devices as well as information about water and energy saving appliances.

Participants are encouraged to pack a picnic lunch and car pool with their neighbors. For more information about the event and other programs at the Cedar River Watershed, visit www.cedarriver.org or contact the Cedar River Watershed Education Center at (206) 733-9421.

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