County increasing support for Waterloo-Wellington Children’s Groundwater Festival

Event to be held in Wellington County for the first time

GUELPH – The County of Wellington is increasing its financial support for the Waterloo-Wellington Children’s Groundwater Festival, which is being held in the county for the first time in 2023.

The four-day festival will be held at the Guelph Lake Conservation Area between June 6 and 9. Since 1996, the event has been held at the Ken Seiling Waterloo Region Museum in Kitchener.

The festival is a not-for-profit organization that has been educating children for over 25 years.

Each year it has been held in-person the festival educates over 5,000 students in Grades 2 to 5 from across the County of Wellington, Region of Waterloo, and City of Guelph.

In 2021 and 2022 the event was held in virtual format due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This will be the first year the festival will be held outside of Waterloo Region,” planning committee chair and councillor James Seeley told Wellington County council on April 27.

Since 2017, Wellington Source Water Protection/County of Wellington has been a financial sponsor for the festival.

Wellington Source Water Protection and local municipal water/wastewater staff have participated in delivering education to the students.

In 2022, the county contributed $3,500 to support the delivery of education and to help the festival maintain its operating budget, a figure that was scheduled to increase to $4,000 in 2023.

At the April 27 meeting, county council approved a planning committee recommendation to increase the contribution to $15,000.

“Given that the festival is being held in Wellington County for the first time, staff would like to provide additional financial support,” states a report from risk management official Kyle Davis.

“For 2023, it is proposed that $15,000 be provided to the festival to support the move to the new location and hopefully see an increase in county schools participating,” the report notes.

Registration for the festival opened in late January and filled up rapidly.

There is a cap of 1,100 students per day with a total of 4,400 students for 2023. This cap is due to the festival running four, not five days, due to logistical constraints related to a new location and running the festival in-person for the first time in four years.

The festival currently has a waitlist of 2,800 students and these students have been offered to participate in the virtual festival.

In-person registrations from the county represent 23% of the 2023 total, with 12 schools registered out of 53 schools.

County schools in Elora, Fergus, Puslinch, Arthur, Harriston and Palmerston are participating. There is also participation from Guelph schools that include county students.

High schools in Palmerston and Guelph are also providing student volunteers to assist in presenting activity centres.

The additional $11,000 will be funded from cost savings originating from an approved second source protection coordinator position within the county’s risk management official budget, the report states.

“This second source protection coordinator is a 50% cost-shared position between the county and the Township of Centre Wellington and $35,000 was budgeted within the county risk management official budget, representing 50% of the entire year cost for the position,” states the report.

The report notes the position will not be filled until June at the earliest, representing five to six months in cost savings – about $14,500 to $17,500.

The report stresses the funding reallocation is one-time move to reflect the unique circumstances of moving the festival to Wellington County and running an in-person festival for the first time in four years.

“This is not meant to represent an increase to the county base funding for the festival,” the report states.