Children check out sturgeon during the Blue Water Sturgeon Festival.
It’s the ten year anniversary of the Friends of the St. Clair River and the Port Huron-based non-profit organization is celebrating like it always has: The Blue Water Sturgeon Festival.
It’s the largest festival in the Great Lakes celebrating the largest fish in the Great Lakes, says the Friends of the St. Clair River president, Sheri Faust. The majority of the events leading up to the festival, and the festival itself, are free, though there is a ticketed cruise along the St. Clair River that serves as a fundraiser for the organization.
"The St. Clair River is a source of life. We use it for drinking water, recreational activities, transportation; it’s part of our economy. It’s a source of pride for the community," Faust says.
"Because we use it every day and see it every day, it’s part of who we are. We need to protect it."
There are several events leading up to the Blue Water Sturgeon Festival, which itself takes place on Saturday, June 2.Visitors can get up close and personal with fish during the Blue Water Sturgeon Festival.
On Thursday, May 31, and Friday, June 1, roughly 600 St. Clair County 5th graders will be taken on sturgeon science cruises. The field trips are free for the students, a fact made possible by community partnerships and sponsorships.
Also on Thursday, May 31, is the Sturgeon Brew Happy Hour at War Water Brewery in St. Clair. The event, which takes place from 5 to 9 p.m., functions as the official kick-off party for the festival, and features beer tastings, pint glasses, door prizes, and a tank of live sturgeon.
On Saturday, June 2, is the festival itself. The day begins with the Run with the Sturgeon 1K Fun Run and 5K Race. The first of three Huron Lady Sturgeon Cruises kicks off at 10 a.m. Additional activities include a sturgeon touch tank, sturgeon chalk mural, and Walpole Island drum ceremony, among others. The festival is located at the Great Lakes Maritime Center in Port Huron.
The Blue Water Sturgeon Festival attracts an average of 7,000 people each year.
"We call sturgeon a spotlight species because we can use them to gauge the health of the river," says Faust. "Sturgeon are virtually unchanged since the dinosaurs were here.
"They’re the biggest fish in the Great Lakes."
To monitor and advocate for the health of the St. Clair River is one of the main reasons that the organization exists. And like the sturgeon population, the state of the river has improved over the years.
The sturgeon, considered a threatened species, has seen improved numbers, this thanks to fishing regulations and pollution control efforts, says Faust. The health of the St. Clair River has also improved over the years, and recent efforts have made beaches along the river much safer for residents to enjoy.
A small organization, the Friends of the St. Clair River relies heavily on volunteers. They organize trash clean-ups and landscape management. The non-profit manages the Blue Water Riverwalk, and the volunteers that care for it. The Friends work to eliminate invasive species in and along the river, and perform many other services to improve its state.
"We’re the largest environmental non-profit in the area. We lead scientific monitoring programs and provide stewardships to protect the St. Clair River," Faust says.
"The festival is one of our main ways to get people interested in protecting the river, too."
Visit the Blue Water Sturgeon Festival online to learn more about events planned, race registration, and cruise tickets.
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