Posted in #WeAreWaterPipestone

And the Winner Is…

We had two winners last night at our Opening Ceremony of We Are Water MN. One wins an annual MN State Park pass and the other earns bragging rights. More on this in a moment.

Angel Lopez: finger painting

First, a little background on We Are Water MN. We started our water journey back in the spring of 2019 with an in-depth application to the Minnesota Humanities Center. Before deciding whether or not we should even apply for the grant, I reached out to area businesses to see if this was something we should pursue. I figured that without support, there would be no reason to apply in the first place.

I received a resounding yes from a handful of key organizations and went ahead with the submission. After we found out that Meinders Community Library had received the grant and that Pipestone would be a host community for the We Are Water MN exhibit, our community partners got busy planning. Wind of this great project was picked up by a news outlet and I was asked by a very inquisitive journalist, “When did you become so passionate about water?” This question was followed by a slew of others that included words and phrases like “groundwater”, “WRAPS”, “pollution”, “purification”, “parts per million” etc, etc, etc. (Here is where I lost track of the conversation and got lost in my own head.)

Confession 1: I had seen a video of the We Are Water MN traveling exhibit and knew that we had to have it here. So I could see it. And interact with it. And share it. Because exhibits are cool. And this one is tailored to our corner of the prairie, making it doubly cool.

Confession 2: I had an ulterior motive that did not include water at all. It included people. Water was simply the tangible piece of the puzzle that would help me reach this goal. In a nutshell, water is the one thing that we all have in common no matter where we come from or what we do. We all use water, need water, and connect through water. But, we all use it, need it, and connect through it in different ways. In my mind, bringing people together to hear these unique perspectives, laying the ground work for shared experiences via water-themed programs, and providing a safe place for open conversation seemed like a great way to invest in our community.

Confession 3: The inquisitive journalist was clearly much more passionate and knowledgeable about water than I. Her next question brought me back to reality–and I’m paraphrasing because it took a moment to fully engage with said reality, “It doesn’t seem like you know all the things there is to know about water that you should know to fully help others know….(insert a wee bit of Charlie Brown’s teacher and a lot of self doubt here)…is this going to be a problem?”

Was it? I cycled back through my first two confessions before answering. “Of course not.”

My librarian mind, the one that literally spends her days researching facts and digging up good info through reliable sources, argued that I didn’t need to know anything about water to pull off the requirements of this grant. All I needed to do was find the people who actually knew the facts. I simply needed to find the reliable resources. And I found them in our community partners and in our collaborators, our volunteers, and our presenters.

From the fall of 2019 until yesterday, our partners trained, met, and planned. Their time, talents, and tenacity turned a dream into a reality. Our volunteers and community collaborators worked their tails off so the vision on paper could become the reality. My deepest thanks goes to the dozens of people who played a role in last night’s success. My gratitude is extended to all the individuals who took time out of their lives and showed up for a night of food, fun, and education. Programs never work without someone to enjoy them. And last night definitely worked.

During the Opening Ceremony, we heard that water is one of the greatest resources we have. It is also one we need to monitor, care for, and preserve. The same is true for relationships. Our community is one of the greatest resources we have. The proof of that was on display at 6:00pm last night on the library lawn.

Opening Ceremony Presentation

  • Artist Angel Lopez provided pre-program, live entertainment by finger painting a beach scene. Angel has set up his in-person paintings around the community over the past four years and will be at the vendor fair on the Pipestone County Courthouse lawn during Water Tower Festival.
  • State Partner Jennifer Tonko joined us from the Minnesota Humanities Center. We Are Water MN is led by the Center in partnership with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the Minnesota Historical Society, the Minnesota Department of Health, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resource, and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. It is only through these State Partners that our Southwestern Minnesota communities have access to such an amazing traveling exhibit.
  • Internationally known, Randy Spronk farms in Edgerton and regaled us with his childhood water story before sharing how important healthy water is to all of us: locally, nationally, and globally. If you see Randy, ask him about Geritol Water.
  • Jason Overby from Lincoln Pipestone Rural Water followed up by sharing what it takes to supply our corner of the state with safe drinking water. They are quite literally are who you call when your well runs dry.
  • But for those of us on city water, Mayor Myron Koets helped us understand why a new water treatment facility was necessary for the health and well-being of our residents, as well as those who live downstream from us. It’s so important to remember that what we flush doesn’t just affect us.
  • Next, Camas Johnston sang the Water Song in Ojibwe, her native tongue. If you’ve never heard her sing, you are missing out. Her thanks to water was by far the most moving I’ve ever witnessed.
  • Travis Erickson, quarrier and carver at the Pipestone National Monument, spoke on the spiritual aspect of water in tribal ceremonies and the importance of truly appreciating the gift of water. You can find him at the Monument demonstrating his award-winning skills. Not only did Travis receive the 2018 Prairie Star Award, but his works are showcased in the Smithsonian Institute.
  • Another speaker from the Pipestone National Monument focused on the need for quality water to sustain all life from the tiniest insects to the smallest plants. Gabe Yellowhawk, a Biological Technician Ranger, had spent the morning recording mercury levels in dragonflies. It was a great reminder that our actions (and sometimes inactions) impact every corner of our earth.
  • Pre-show, Bud Johnston from Keepers of the Sacred Tradition of Pipemakers used a drum to bring thunder to audience members. He also spoke on the ways humans alter the landscape which changes natural filtration and purification of water.
  • The cast of Moana Jr. closed out the program with a few songs from their upcoming musical. You can take in the whole production of Moana Jr. July 23-25 at the Hiawatha Pageant Park Amphitheater. Moana Jr. tells the story of stewardship to the land and sea and is brought to you through the Arts & Mentoring Project.

Following the Opening Ceremony program, we hosted a Water Bar with local water samples and asked participants to tell us which water came from Pipestone and to pick their favorite. Samples were collected from the following places:

  1. Edgerton Public Library
  2. Split Rock Creek State Park
  3. Pipestone City Water from the tap
  4. Filtered Water from Meinders Community Library
  5. Hatfield Roadhouse (Lincoln Pipestone Rural Water)
  6. Van Hoecke Farms from the tap (Lincoln Pipestone Rural Water)

Winner 1: Alaina Biegler, the lucky, randomly drawn participant who correctly guessed which water sample was from Pipestone (#3). Alaina won an annual Minnesota State Park pass which gets her into all of Minnesota’s 66 state parks and 9 recreation areas. Her family’s water story is also featured on one of the We Are Water MN exhibit panels.

Winner 2: Lincoln Pipestone Rural Water from the Van Hoecke Farm (#6). Overwhelmingly, samplers agreed that this water was the most delicious in the area. Congrats to all living north of town who get their rural water through LPRW. Just be careful who you brag to lest you find yourself hosting a plethora of tea-time visitors.

As intended, this sampling kicked off a lively discussion. Most wanted to know why water from one source (Lincoln Pipestone Rural Water) wouldn’t always taste the same. According to Jason Overby, the answer is in the well. While LPRW serves a large area, it sources its water from different wells throughout the region. Not only that, but water flavor can also be impacted by they way water is treated, any fortifications added such as fluoride, or the pipes used to carry water from the source to the tap. Further, your own body’s chemistry can influence how you perceive water flavor.

What makes water good? We invite you to find out. Sample water wherever you go. What does it taste like? How does it feel on your tongue? What is the same or different about it compared to other water you’ve sampled?

We invite you to share your water stories with those around you and to connect with others in your community at our remaining We Are Water MN events.

Pipestone has a fantastic water story. It’s a story that has no end, but one we undeniably play a leading part in. On behalf of all our partners, we invite you to stop by the library between now and September 13 to explore our state’s water story and our role within it.

confession 4: water is a valuable resource, and so is community. in my opinion both need deliberate and thoughtful preservation~ jody


Meinders Community Library is a combined school and public library that serves the residents of Pipestone County in Southwestern Minnesota. It is part of the Plum Creek Library System.