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Published: Saturday, 6/21/2008

Riverfront fest highlights fun, lakes' health

BY MATTHEW EISEN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
James Gerhart plays steel drums at the Great Lakes Riverfront Festival. The event continues today from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. James Gerhart plays steel drums at the Great Lakes Riverfront Festival. The event continues today from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
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The curly, blond locks protruding from Wayne Jurs' hat flapped delicately in the light breeze like the flags on the trimaran he is proudly captaining during a 13-city tour of the Great Lakes.

The dozens of colorful rectangular flags on the trimaran are prizes from years of racing success for the Earth Voyager, a 60-foot yacht highlighting the Toledo Healthy Lakes Great Lakes Riverfront festival, sponsored by the Healing Our Water-Great Lakes Coalition at the Toledo Skyway Marina, 1701 Front St., from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. today.

Organizers have made sure the Voyager's 100-foot-tall mast is visible from the entrance to the marina and the Veterans' Glass City Skyway.

They hope to pique local curiosity and educate Toledo area residents about the need to rid the Great Lakes of harmful sewage, toxic pollution, and invasive species.

Dave Dean, a graduate student at the University of Toledo, brought his son Conor, 9, and daughter Bri, 7, to see the Earth Voyager and fish.

Paige Hansen walked over to the marina with her sons, Sam, 12, and Kenny, 9, after the family heard the trimaran had arrived.

Peter Alexander, an organizer of the Healthy Lakes, Healthy Lives Tour, which started in Buffalo on June 6, sees the Voyager as a conversation starter.

"It allows us to talk about the restoration of the lakes and how important they are to the economy and the sense of identity and the quality of life for the entire region," he said.

The Earth Voyager - launched in September, 1991 - is the only Formula 16 trimaran on the Great Lakes.

The boat comfortably sleeps Mr. Jurs and his crew as the group travels the Great Lakes this summer before ending their voyage Sept. 6 in Rochester, N.Y., where the boat was built.

Before finding the Earth Voyager, visitors arriving today for the festival may first encounter Donna Leuck, a local artisan who owns Donna's Delights and has laid claim to a spot on the edge of the parking lot to sell her collection of handmade lighthouses, talking puppets, and puzzle frames.

Indoors, Jim Mollenkopf has set up a table of nature photographs and local history books he has written.

Other booths display necklaces, earrings, candles, flowers, wooden piggy banks, and paintings.

Not too far from Ms. Leuck, along the docks, 19 trays of dirt are displayed in front of Brenda Culler, public information officer for the Ohio Office of Coastal Management.

The dirt has been collected from various spots along Ohio's Lake Erie coastline and allows Ms. Culler to educate visitors about water and soil quality.

Other environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, the Rain Garden Initiative, and the Maumee Valley Growers, have set up tables with information boards, flyers, and free trinkets.

Outside, Dick McCarthy serenaded a meager crowd with island favorites played on his electric guitar. A full lineup of performers, including a reappearance by Mr. McCarthy, will entertain visitors today.

Organizer Sandy Bihn said the eclectic collection of entertainment is meant to attract visitors and to reflect the region.

"This is basically the first public event here at this marina, so we're hoping people come down and see the marina and enjoy the river," she said.

Contact Matthew Eisen at:

meisen@theblade.com

or 419-724-6077.



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