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Story time with the Milford Library

David Thoreson Images of the 
2022 Blue Water Festival

Keynote Speaker

David Thoreson Images of the 
2022 Blue Water Festival




New this year


Join instructor Clare Wynne as she guides kids in wearing a regulator and putting their heads in the water. Another way to enjoy our beautiful lakes and an incentive to keep them clean!

11-2 pm at the public beach at Preservation Plaza

Photos by TFC Photography & Film


Fishing Seminar

Chase Parsons, professional walleye tournament angler and educator, is going to present the 9 a.m. fishing seminar on Saturday, August 12.

He’ll cover specific baits to use for each technique, but more importantly, how to use them during different periods of the year. This will be a quick hitting, multiple presentation seminar with ample time for some question and answer.

Parsons notes, “I am excited to be on the shores of West Okoboji. I know how important clean water is here in the Iowa Great Lakes. Part of my message is about clean water. Keeping our waters clean for future generations will be a part of my seminar.” Pretty exciting stuff! We're less than four months away!


2023 Free Concert Entertainment annnounced


Elle King to headline festival concert

Iowa’s premier water quality event this summer in the Iowa Great Lakes will culminate with a prestigious musical act on stage. Genre-busting singer, songwriter and rising star Elle King will headline the evening concert of the Okoboji Blue Water Festival on August 12 in Preservation Plaza at the Arnolds Park Amusement Park. King’s rise in popularity is due in part to her versatility as a musician and her bold forays into several different genres.

“One of the trademarks of the festival is to end the daylong water quality activities with a celebratory big-name concert,” said co-chair Greg Drees. “Elle King will carry on that tradition.”
Co-chair Julie Peterson agreed. “We were elated when Elle pledged to play our event,” Peterson said. “We anticipate a capacity crowd to rock the green space.”

King’s musical style is influenced by country, rock and blues, a diversity that has endeared her to fans. Her notoriety as a recording artist is maturing, and she slays a live show. A CMA and ACM Award winner and four-time Grammy Award nominee, King’s music is steeped in every genre of vintage Americana, grown from her hardscrabble upbringing in Oklahoma. With famous parents – superstar actor and comedian Rob Schneider and international model London King – Elle fought early to forge her own identity through her music. The release of her debut album, Love Stuff, in 2015, sent her on the way.

King became obsessed early in life by Otis Redding and Hank Williams, among others, and launched a youthful songwriting resume at the tender age of 13. She learned how to play the banjo and began to shape the raucous power delivery of her vocals that today make her live performances so dynamic.

Collaborations with various artists ensued. A highly successful duet with Miranda Lambert became a number one country hit, “Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home)”. King moved firmly into the genre with her 2023 album, Come Get Your Wife. She once said “I say that I sing a little bit of country blues, but it changes from song to song, whatever I’m feeling or listening to.” But as soon as you try to classify her as country, she’ll rock your brains out or wail you with the blues. That’s what makes King’s journey so fascinating.

Joshua Black Wilkins 4

AJ Croce slated as opening act

Master pianist, songwriter and singer AJ Croce will take the stage at the eighth annual Okoboji Blue Water Festival on August 12 as the prelude to headliner Elle King. “What a coup for the festival,” said co-chair Julie Peterson. “AJ Croce has performed his beautiful music for more that three decades, and we are thrilled that he is on the card for our evening concert.”

Croce draws from a myriad of musical traditions and anti-heroes – part New Orleans, part juke joint and part soul. The author of ten charted studio albums, Croce has illustrated through the years his love and appreciation of several musical genres, including blues, soul, pop, jazz and rock. Early in his career he toured with Ray Charles and B.B. King, and the list of musicians he has played with is lengthy with such names as Willie Nelson, the Neville Brothers and Ry Cooder.

AJ’s love for the music of his late father, the prolific songwriter Jim Croce, has strengthened through the years, and his live concerts are embellished with those lovely renditions.

Dr. Thomas Isenhart, professor of Natural Resource Ecology and Management
Dr. Thomas Isenhart, professor of Natural Resource Ecology and Management
Mike Hawkins, Iowa DNR Fisheries Biologist
Mike Hawkins, Iowa DNR Fisheries Biologist
Rosie Roberts, Conservation Agronomist
Rosie Roberts, Conservation Agronomist
Jennifer Terry, project manager for the Source Water Research Assessment
Jennifer Terry, project manager for the Source Water Research Assessment
Joe McGovern (moderator), President of Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation
Joe McGovern (moderator), President of Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation

Clean Water Panel added to Okoboji Blue Water Festival agenda

By Steve Weisman

In just a few weeks on Saturday, August 12, the eighth annual Okoboji Blue Water Festival (OBWF) will take place at Preservation Plaza on the shores of West Lake Okoboji. According to co-organizer Greg Drees, “We have finalized the day-long activities and added a truly exciting educational clean water opportunity with a State/Local Clean Water Panel Discussion that will run from 10:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. under the Big Tent.”

Drees continues, “In addition to being a celebration of clean water initiatives, the OBWF is meant to also be an educational day with the goal of raising awareness with water quality issues not only here in the Iowa Great Lakes but across Iowa and beyond. We are going to focus this awareness with a panel discussion featuring four extremely knowledgeable clean water authorities. Moderator for the panel will be Joe McGovern, president of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation.”

The four panelists include the following clean water experts: 

  • Dr. Thomas Isenhart, professor at Iowa State University in Natural Resource Ecology and Management. Isenhart’s research interests include stream, riparian, and watershed management; design and establishment of conservation buffers to improve the environmental efficiency of agriculture, land use/hydrology and stream bed and bank erosion; watershed assessment; and land use and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Mike Hawkins, Iowa DNR Fisheries Biologist at the Spirit Lake Hatchery. As a key biologist, Hawkins has been at the center of the battle against exotics and invasives entering the Iowa Great Lakes. 
  • Rosie Roberts, conservation agronomist with the Iowa Soybean Association. Roberts connects farmers to financial cost share for conservation practices, provides technical assistance to producers and serves as in-house conservation expertise to the partnering ag cooperative.
  • Jennifer Terry, project manager for the Source Water Research Assessment in Polk County. Terry oversees a water quality improvement project which will produce a science-based report about the quality of the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers, as well as a roadmap for restoring and protecting area rivers for public health, safe drinking water sources, water trails, and investment and infrastructure in the region.

Panel moderator Joe McGovern says, “I am excited to moderate this panel of experts as we discuss water quality issues for the Lakes region and all of Iowa. During the question-and-answer session, we will discuss the problems we face, but more importantly what we can do to solve them."

Drees also presented the final update for the day’s activities:

  • Chalkstock – 8 a.m.
  • Fishing Seminar – 9 a.m. to 10:30 pm. 
  • Storytime with Milford Library – 10 a.m.
  • Exhibitor’s Row – 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Kid’s and family Activities – 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • State/Local Panel Discussion – 10:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. 
  • Okoboji Protective Association annual meeting – 12:30 p.m. to 1:1:30 p.m. 
  • Keynote Speaker – 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
  • Concert – begins at 7:15 p.m.

“With a full day like this, co-chair Julie Peterson and I have worked hard to get

everything to fit. There are a lot of moving parts when you have such an array of outstanding activities, speakers and musicians. I encourage those in attendance to check out all the activities under the Big Tent: Fishing Seminar, Panel Discussion, OPA annual meeting and Jon Bowermaster, our Keynote Speaker. It’s going to be such an awesome day!”

Kate Mendenhall, president of the Okoboji Protective Association, welcomes visitors to come to the OPA annual meeting at 12:30 p.m. “It is open to the public, and we think it is a great way to learn more about the organization’s mission, clean water initiatives and to listen to the special speakers we will have on hand for our meeting.”

To learn more about the OBWF, go to the website at or the OBWF Facebook page.

Keynote: Jon Bowermaster

Festival directors have contracted with Jon Bowermaster to be the keynote speaker at next summer's festival. Bowermaster has Iowa connections as a Drake University graduate and a past visitor to Okoboji.

Writer and filmmaker Jon Bowermaster's most recent documentary—SoLa: Louisiana Water Stories has been making the rounds of film festivals and conferences since the fall of 2010. Begun two years earlier and focused on the lives of Southern Louisianans whose lives depend on the sea, its filming concluded with the BP spill in the Gulf making it evermore relevant. His most recent book is Oceans: The Threats to the Sea and What You Can Do To Turn the Tide. An anthology of original essays by some of the world's most intriguing ocean thinkers and doers, the book is companion to the new Jacques Perrin/DisneyNature film Oceans, which both came out in the U.S. on Earth Day, April 22. 


The latest films from Mr. Bowermaster and his team continue to garner praise. Terra Antarctica, documenting a six-week long exploration of the Antarctic Peninsula by sail and sea kayak won "Best Ocean Issues" award from the Blue Ocean Film Festival; What Would Darwin Think?: Man v. Nature in the Galapagos was awarded "Best Environmental Film" at the Vancouver International Film Festival. A six-time grantee of the National Geographic Expeditions Council, his 2007-2008 Antarctic expedition was the final in his OCEANS 8 project, which over the past decade has taken him and his teams around the world by sea kayak, including expeditions to the Aleutian Islands, Vietnam, French Polynesia, Chile/Argentina/Bolivia, Gabon, Croatia and Tasmania. Seeing the world from the seat of a sea kayak over the past decade has given Bowermaster a one-of-a-kind look at both the health of the world's oceans and the lives of the nearly 3 billion people around the globe who depend on them.

Mr. Bowermaster’s reporting on the relationship between man and the sea continues with his blog—“Notes from Sea Level"—giving him a daily forum for continuing the conversation with a growing audience.

John Bowermaster is author of eleven books and producer of a dozen documentary films. When not on the sea, Jon Bowermaster lives in the Hudson Valley of New York.