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Water exhibit highlights importance, history

With Saturday’s official opening of the We Are Water MN exhibit at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center, people visiting the center will be able to get a better idea how important water is to a community.

The traveling exhibit will be in Austin through June 16 and consists of interactive displays touching on water conservation and water health.

“None of us would be here today, at the nature center, if it wasn’t for the Cedar River,” said Tim Ruzek of the Cedar River Watershed District and local co-leader of We Are Water MN during the grand opening of the exhibit.

Ruzek was highlighting just how important water is to Austin as the waterways through the community were an important part of making Austin what it is today.

“We have a rich water history,” he said.

The exhibit, which is largely packed into half of the nature center’s main classroom, features many exhibits designed to educate through interaction.

That level of interaction brings home the idea of what the We Are Water MN exhibit is trying to get across: water conservation.

The notion is especially important when educating the youth who will visit the exhibit.

“The display is very interactive,” nature center director Luke Reese said. “Playing and learning is a really effective way to get people to learn. We’re really lucky to have it.”

The exhibit will also go hand-in-hand with the nature center’s own Water Festival. Normally held in July, the center moved the annual festival up to run from June 10-15.

“We pushed it up so it ends with the festival,” Reese said.

Rep. Jeanne Poppe and Mower County Commissioner Jeff Baldus look through one of the exhibits after the opening of We Are Water MN at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center Saturday. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

On Saturday, there were several officials from the state, including Rep. Jeanne Poppe of Austin who has a long history of working with the community on water and environmental issues.

She spoke to the importance of coming together to protect the important natural resource.

“We all are interconnected and water is important to all of us,” she said, while also acknowledging the sometimes-testy relationship we have with water. “It’s a love-hate thing. We all need it, love it, benefit from it, but sometimes we’re frustrated by it.”

Poppe was referencing the extensive flood history Austin has, but even that is a chance for learning highlighted by the We Are Water MN exhibit.

It’s a relationship, Ruzek told those gathered, that has benefits for everybody who visits.

“We Are Water MN has been a tremendous opportunity for us … we’re very grateful to host this exhibit. Please enjoy the exhibit and bring others with you.”