December 2, 2021

Children dive into fun, facts at water festival

Travis Dunn/contributing photographer

Sean Michael Quail, 10, left, of Homer, pulls a pickerel out of a pool Saturday while Cooper George, Emma Stout and Jackson George of Cortland watch at the Water Festival in Cortland.

They were going to get one — they were determined. First they were going to catch a perch with their bare hands, then they were going to scoop up a bluegill in a plastic cup.

Somehow, the fish kept getting away.

They did get a big pickerel, though. Sean Michael Quail, 10, of Homer held it up while Cooper and Jackson George, 9-year-old twins, jostled to look.

After a while, they moved on to other stuff. And there was plenty to choose from Saturday at the 28th annual Cortland County Water Festival.

The festival at the Cortland Water Works off Broadway in Cortland was a mix of fun, facts and food. For kids and adults, the festival featured a slew of booths and stations.

Inside, kids could compete in a “water wizard” quiz game, or take a blind taste test of water samples from five municipal water supplies (Cortland, Cortlandville, Homer, Virgil and Scott). There was a horse-drawn carriage tour of the property, and rubber duck races in the stream.

The event, organized by the city water department and the Cortland County Soil and Water Conservation District, featured booths by Cornell Cooperative Extension, the city fire and police departments, the county Health Department, Harford Glen Water, Lime Hollow Nature Center, the W20 Water/Wastewater Operator Training Group and the Upper Susquehanna Coalition, as well as those by the water department and the Soil and Water Conservation District.

At one booth, Peter Harrity, the senior naturalist of Lime Hollow Nature Center in Cortlandville, encouraged Chioma Boston and her three kids to find the amphibians hiding in glass cases on his table.

In one of the cases, Boston found a tiny salamander hidden under leaves and mulch. A red eft, Harrity said.

Over near the inflatable fish pond, Jared Popoli was pleased with how the day was turning out. His booth offered fish painting, an activity that his girlfriend Emily Shepard, a teacher at Homer Elementary School, had suggested, but that he’d been skeptical about.

It’s a Japanese process called gyotaku, and it involves covering a real or a rubber fish in paint, then rolling the fish on paper or a T-shirt — and basically using the fish as stamp. Popoli was worried the kids wouldn’t like it, but it turned out to be popular.

“I can’t believe how well it’s working,” he said. “I’m happily surprised. The kids are loving it.”