TERRE HAUTE —
A year-long celebration of the Wabash River has officially begun.
Wednesday marked the kickoff for the 2013 Year of the River, a community-wide initiative that will involve art, cultural, environmental, recreational and educational events.
More than 75 organizations and groups have become involved since planning began about two years ago. Local colleges and state agencies also are partners.
Events will include art exhibits, photo and poetry competitions, bird-watching, sculpture, nature walks, concerts, a fashion show, the Big Read, a midnight run and, in October, a raft trip.
Much information, including a calendar of events, educational projects for students and river access points, can be found at www.2013yearoftheriver.com.
Dozens of people from the many participating organizations attended the kickoff, which took place at the Girl Scouts program center in Fairbanks Park.
“Look at how much community spirit has come out. There’s a lot of potential here,” said Steve Letsinger, of the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology Permanent Art Collections, one of three groups that has spearheaded the planning effort. The other groups are Art Spaces and Arts Illiana.
As Letsinger and others spoke, audience members could see the Wabash River in the background through glass doors.
“It’s going to be a wonderful year,” said Mayor Duke Bennett, another speaker.
“The whole rebirth of the river itself is a tremendous thing for this community,” he said. “I think for so many years, people have just ignored the river. It’s been neglected.”
Riverscape and now the 2013 Year of the River are changing that, the mayor said.
The city has begun planning a trail along the river that will extend from just outside the Girl Scouts building south to I-70. City officials hope to begin construction “in the very, very near future,” Bennett said.
The city also is involved in an effort to install a webcam that would provide a live view of the river, with a slight delay. Others involved are WTHI and Frontier.
Mary Kramer, executive director of Art Spaces Inc., told those assembled, “I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a river smile, but I would think the Wabash is smiling pretty fiercely now.”
She credited Indiana State University and the Wabash Valley Community Foundation for providing funding to plan for 2013 Year of the River, which also will focus on rivers in general and water as it affects people’s lives. MillerWhite, another sponsor, developed the 2013 YOR website.
Lamar and the Terre Haute Convention and Visitors Bureau will assist with promotion, with added support from the Sisters of Providence at St. Mary-of-the-Woods.
Kramer thanked all the organizations for their involvement. “People were really excited from day one, and the number of participants just kept growing,” she said.
Commenting on the potential long-term impact of 2013 Year of the River, Kramer noted that people already “are thinking more about the river and finding ways to take better care of it. … New conversations are starting to emerge.”
No one really knows what the long-term impact will be, she said. “What we’re doing is opening the door to possibility.”
She encouraged the community to “have fun with all of the events, go to lots of them and enjoy the whole year.”
Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.