TRAVERSE CITY – Just as the world is seeking the most innovative ways to address the most urgent crises, Traverse City is earning its spot on the global stage when it comes to water, often called “the new oil of the 21st century.”

Big questions are looming for the world’s water supplies, from equitable access to keeping it clean for billions. But water is also something to celebrate: life and beauty, and the deep blue seen from space that defines the planet from all others.

That’s why nationally leading musicians and water luminaries are converging here for the Traverse City Water Festival December 12, 13 and 14 for a water-focused celebration of ideas, music, community and art.

“We’re assembling some of the nation’s leading thinkers and performers to share the most creative ways of telling stories about water, and talking about water,” said Seth Bernard, a musician who has appeared on Prairie Home Companion and who co-founded the event with his performing partner Daisy May and musicians of Earthwork Music. “Water runs through everything we care about, especially here in the Great Lakes,” he said. “It’s so important that we’re combining the best of education and information with fun, family-oriented entertainment.”

The Water Festival is a celebration of community and is designed to engage the public in active stewardship of the Great Lakes and to foster cultivation of a vibrant and sustainable community. It is an, all ages, family-oriented, community-centered event that offers the freshest local music, the freshest local food, and local performing and visual artists.

Earthworks has organized highly successful water festivals in Mackinaw City and Grand Rapids, where thousands attended.

Event at a Glance

Friday, December 12 — Traverse City Opera House

The Traverse City festival begins Friday, December 12 at 6 p.m. in the Traverse City Opera House with music by Chris Dorman, Breathe Owl Breathe and Squeaky Clean Cretins, and presentations by Tom Kelly of Inland Seas, Chris and Jody Treter about the Chiapas Water Project, and Hans Voss about TC350 and the Michigan Land Use Institute.

Saturday, December 13 — Traverse City Opera House

Events run all afternoon and into the night Saturday and include African drum and dance, waltzing and children’s activities. Other musical performers include Seth and Daisy May, Claudia Schmidt, Darlene and Mady Kouyate. Speakers include Lee Sprague, J. Carl Ganter, director of the global journalism project Circle of Blue, and Jim Olson, the attorney at the heart of Great Lakes water law discussions.

Sunday, December 14 — Grand Traverse Commons

Events continue Sunday, December 14 at the Grand Traverse Commons where experts will lead a series of workshops, including Water Law with Chris Bzdok, Media and the Global Freshwater Crisis with J. Carl Ganter, children’s activities with Penny Kreihbel and bicycle maintenance with Colin Campbell. Afternoon workshops include Local Solutions to Climate Change with Brian Beauchamp, Great Lakes Up Close with Tom Kelly. Late afternoon includes workshops on watershed mapping, the Alba injection well, with more music and fun through 8 p.m.

More than 70 volunteers are putting finishing touches on the project, Bernard said.

“We’re inspired by the warm response. In a time of uncertainty and as we head into the holidays, the water festival provides a common bond of entertainment and connection,” he said.

Child activities are Friday, Saturday and Sunday; check schedule for details.

Tickets are $12 each day for adults /  $10 each day for Students and Seniors. A full weekend pass, including Sunday workshops, is $25.