ANGOLA – The community celebrated the opening of the Steuben County edition of the Water/Ways Expo on Wednesday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and food trucks to create a festive atmosphere.
Jennifer Danic of the Steuben County Community Foundation, along with Library Director Sonya Dintaman and Steuben County Lakes Board Representative Bill Schmidt, officially introduced and greeted the crowd at the exhibit.
Keira Amstutz, president of Indiana Humanities, which has provided financial assistance to host communities and a native of Hamilton, welcomed those in attendance.
Cheryl Taylor, who controls the Ralph E. Taylor Conservation Fund with the Foundation, cut the ribbon to open the event. The Taylor Fund provided a grant of $10,000 to fund the local exhibit, which was matched dollar-for-dollar locally, and then a portion to create a successful, professional exhibit that strongly complemented the Smithsonian exhibit.
Officially opening to the public on Friday, Water/Ways is a collaborative exhibit in which the Smithsonian partners with Indiana communities to bring water education to the community. National water issues are the focus of the Smithsonian portion, while the Steuben County exhibit highlights local water systems, history, and issues.
Due to a scheduling conflict at Crown Point, the exhibit’s previous location, Steuben County received the Smithsonian’s artwork a week earlier than originally scheduled. Therefore, the inauguration ceremony remained on the day it was originally scheduled.
From the early stages of bidding to host the Smithsonian exhibit, community members have continued to maintain constant involvement with the project, from installation to producing the exhibit locally.
“This project was provided 100% by voluntary donations from individuals, nonprofits, for-profit organizations, businesses and other entities,” Danic said.
Donors included many lake associations: Lake Gage and Lime Lake Association, Crooked Lake Association, Lake James Association and Lake George Cottagers Association. Both the city and county donated entities: City of Angola, Downtown Angola Coalition, Steuben County Tourism Bureau, Carnegie Public Library, County Community Foundation of Steuben, the city of Angola MS4 and the Department of Health of the county of Steuben.
Environmentally focused groups also helped fund the project: 101 Lakes Trust, Clear Lake Township Land Conservancy, Lake George Conservancy, Steuben County Soil and Water Conservation District, and Steuben County Lakes Council. There were several anonymous individual donors as well as Awnings and Signs and Bill Eyster Graphics.
“The first donor to this project, I’m happy to share, was the Ralph E. Taylor Conservation Fund at the Steuben County Community Foundation,” Danic said. “(Widow Cheryl Taylor) was the lead donor, she initiated the lead gift to make this project possible and provided a matching grant to this project which our community has met with splendor.”
The exhibit included interactive visual displays and uses technology to help educate the public. At the center of the overall exhibition are the information boards of the county of Steuben. The Smithsonian part flows around the space. Indiana Humanities is a nationally oriented play facilitator.
The Smithsonian exhibit weaves quotes and information together in a thematic pattern. Some of the themes include separation, passage and erosion.
Two touchscreens for the Smithsonian’s display focus on the power of water and our relationship with water. One of the most popular parts is the augmented reality sandbox, which focuses on the interactive representation of topography and water flow. It was provided by the Steuben County Soil and Water Conservation District.
“I’m with the St. Joe’s River Basin, our headquarters is in South Bend, but St. Joe’s is included in a lot of what this exhibit is about,” said Kate Barrett, a visitor to the opening ceremony. ‘inauguration. “We have a very broad watershed philosophy. We really love seeing events like this. It’s truly inspiring to see events like this and people who care about water, whether it’s for recreation or science, we want to help our partners make water good for future generations.
Area-focused panels discuss a variety of topics ranging from the value of the county’s lakes to an economic perspective and the value of the lakes. With the community in mind, the display also talks about shaping the Steuben County landscape, water and water conservation and recreational use, among other topics.
The Steuben County exhibit had the challenge of making each panel consistent with each other, as different groups of people were dealing with specific sections of information.
In order to maximize the children’s experience at Water/Ways, several children’s activities are offered: connect the dots, coloring, crosswords and word search. Additional information can be found in brochures and stickers are also available.
A children’s book is offered to families visiting the exhibition. The book, “A Seriously Silly History of the Journey of a Drop of Water” by Martha Miller, was published by the Monroe County Soil and Water Conservation District in Monroe County.
Outside of the library’s indoor exhibit, food trucks included Eicher’s Subs, Laz’s Cuban Cafe, and Party on a Patio. Byler’s Lane Winery provided drinks.
The Water/Ways exhibit will be at the library until July 17, open during normal library hours, with special presentations on Sundays.