A Connection with Plants and Gardening Helps this District Deliver Messages About Water's Value

A California district hosts an October Waterwise Garden and Pumpkin Fest to stress water conservation and kick off the fall planting season

A Connection with Plants and Gardening Helps this District Deliver Messages About Water's Value

Water drop characters are among the attractions at the Waterwise Garden and Pumpkin Fest.

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The Chino Basin Water Conservation District’s fall festival is back after a two-year hiatus due to COVID.

Based in Montclair, California, the district created the festival to educate residents on water-saving plantings and responsible gardening practices. Amid frequent droughts, the residents appreciate learning how they can do their share to conserve water.

“We have festival attendees who know a lot about water wise gardening and some who know nothing. It runs the gamut,” says Maia Dean, community programs manager. The Waterwise Garden and Pumpkin Fest takes place on the district’s grounds, about 30 minutes east of Los Angeles.

The district was formed in 1949 to help protect and preserve the Chino Groundwater Basin for the San Bernardino communities that rely on it for water. Its service area includes some or all of the cities of Chino, Chino Hills, Montclair, Ontario, Rancho Cucamonga and Upland.

Festival fun

“Our planting and growing season starts in fall, and so we host our event in October to teach water-wise planting and gardening practices just as residents are planting their own gardens,” Dean says.

The festival was started in 2006 as a family-friendly event. Many residents attend year after year. The half-day event runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and offers water-related activities festival for all ages. Inland Empire Utilities Agency helps sponsor the event. There are workshops sponsored by the district’s partner water agencies. Every year there are up to 20 booths.

The district promotes the festival in a monthly newsletter sent to 8,000 subscribers. Information is also posted on the district website and social media platforms, including a Facebook page devoted solely to the event.

Partner agencies advertise the event through their social media and bill inserts. Some cities hang promotional banners above their streets. “When the district hosts school field trips, we promote the festival to the students and educators throughout the year,” Dean says.

Varied activities

Festival booths can include a master gardener tent and a representative from the San Bernardino stormwater program who explains what not to put down storm drains. An irrigation vendor instructs residents on how to use a water-saving slow-drip system to water plants.

Students from the horticultural department at the local community college sell succulents and water-saving plants as a fundraiser. They teach attendees which plants are best for their areas and describe the plants’ water-conserving qualities.

Throughout the day, raffles are conducted for water-related items donated by partner agencies.

Speakers throughout the day tell how to create and maintain water-conserving gardens. Dance groups and singing groups volunteer to entertain the attendees. There are special events for children; one festival featured a live exhibit with marine animals.

Pumpkin patch

The festival draws about 900 people, including roughly 600 adults and 300 children. By far the most popular event is the Pumpkin Patch. Kids and adults buy pumpkins that the children paint for prizes. Adults and older children create pumpkin centerpieces, which the families take them home to use as fall decorations in their yards.

The festival also includes water-related arts and crafts activities for kids. Booths offer prizes, popcorn, candy and ice pops. There is also a petting zoo.

A festival of this magnitude takes a lot of helping hands. Area middle and high schools require students to contribute volunteer hours every year; many students donate some of those hours to the festival year after year.

The district staff members also pitch in, as do staffers from partner water agencies and master gardeners. Says Dean, “Our volunteers make this festival the success that it is, and we couldn’t do it without them.”


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