On Friday night, the RiverStop rest area in Rifle will transform into an outdoor theater.
With a backdrop of the Colorado River and Lions Pond, the Middle Colorado Watershed Council is hosting the Wild and Scenic Film Festival to raise funds and awareness for local water projects.
They will show seven short films focused on water and climate issues, ranging from five to 25 minutes in length, shown on the lawn of the recently-completed stop. For those unable to attend, the annual festival will feature a livestream option this year.
“We use the film festival in our restoration events and those types of things to reach out to the public and say, ‘Here’s what we’re working on,’” Middle Colorado Watershed Council Executive Director Paula Stepp said. “Come be a part of this, come watch the films with us and heighten the awareness of what water means to all of our communities.”
In February the council, along with three local conservation districts, released a stream management plan outlining 55 projects from Glenwood Springs to De Beque based on the input and needs of local stakeholders around water issues. Some of these projects are brief, three-month endeavors, while some could take up to 30 years, Stepp said. Some of the projects include improving boat ramps, creating information guides for gravel pit operators and investigating water rights. The group added rain gauges to Glenwood Canyon in July before storms caused significant damage to Interstate 70.
“It’s so important right now, in respect of the drought conditions we face, what everybody has to do to mitigate and enhance use of their water,” Stepp said. “It’s a big topic and issue here for our watershed, and we want to be there to support people and what they need to do.”
They receive a lot of funding from the state, but are reliant on local communities for volunteers, so they hold events like the film festival to raise awareness and draw-in sponsors.
The in-person event will be capped at 120 people. As of Thursday, about half of those tickets had been sold, Stepp said. Walk-up tickets will be sold as available.
The event will also have a raffle with items like fishing fly sets and jewelry. Local musician Frank Martin will perform from 6:30-7 p.m. before the films start.
The online version will give users access to the films from 7 p.m. Friday night through midnight Sept. 22.
Tickets are $20 for both the in-person event and online streaming option with options to donate additional funds. For the live screening, children younger than 12 and event sponsors can attend for free. Tickets and more information are available at MidCoWatershed.org/events/2021/9/17/filmfestival.