Waterkeeper held their fourth annual Gala at CBC headquarters with a star studded line up of entertainers, singers, authors and other environmentally like-minded people all in support of arguably the one cause that we can all agree on- water. A staggering 20% of the worlds freshwater is Canadian, and with pollutants clogging our streams, rivers and oceans, awareness is the most important tool to ensure these waters will still be safe for generations to come. That’s the idea behind Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, founded by former environmental lawyer Mark Mattson. He’s the man behind the gala, and a champion of the idea of ‘swimmable, drinkable, fishable’ water, a notion that I as a child took for granted and now am hopeful for my two daughters (and their kids) future.
The Waterkeeper Gala is the single biggest fundraiser for this charity, but almost more importantly, it brings together people to discuss water issues not only for us gifted with so much in Canada, but also to touch upon struggles that are going on worldwide. Wade Davis eloquently brought this subject to life with his stunning keynote with imagery spanning the globe, delving into travels and confrontations with the stark reality that we are now facing.
But while the subject was heavy, the mood uplifting and certainly hopeful. Stories were brought to life by Tanya Tagaq, Robert Pomakov, Joseph Boyden, Gord Downie amongst others. The room itself was decked out like a body of water, with a nautical design that included textured panels that resemebled the gentle lap of the ocean and tablescapes that would make even the most staunch landlubber an aspiring sailor.
An art filled focus of the evening included both a silent and live auction with acclaimed auctioneer Stephen Ranger manning the podium, keeping the bids flowing on an array of stunning work by the likes of Edward Burtynsky, Tom Hopkins, Kent Monkman, Barbara Cole and Vivian Maier (just to name drop a few).
The bar adjacent to the makeshift art gallery kept up with the steady stream of bodies, with clever concoctions like the ‘Death’s Door Gin-Ria’ keeping the crowd lubricated, and wines by Tawse Winery and beers from super local Mill Street Brewery.
Chef Events Catering, helmed by head Chef Eric Rogers and Anna Mae Crespo kept the crowd nibbling with standout passed hors-d’oeuvres like the Deconstructed Spanakopita, Smoked Trout with Beet Mayo on a Rosti, or the inventive and inhalable Oven Roasted Tomato Macaron with lemon ricotta, a savoury twist on a sweet favourite.
I got to go behind the scenes and meet Chef Eric and his crew, watching them hand plate hundreds of starter salads like the Green and White Asparagus with Niagara Proscuitto or the Roast Beet and Goat Cheese, with a level of precision and presentation that is usually reserved for fine a la carte dining, not feeding a small army like this!
The food was on point and shared the focus of the evening, all ingredients were sourced from the Great Lakes Watershed. Mains included the colourful Cedar Scented Yorkshire Valley Farms Chicken Supreme or for vegetarians, a filling Grilled Southwest Vegetable Tower, with two types of salsa stacked with avocados, cheese and cilantro.
As the live auction saw a flood of bids wash over, the meal ended with a sweet finish, with a seasonal nod to everyone’s fave perennial, here paired with vanilla for their Rhubarb and Blackberry Compote Cheesecake.
What I loved most about the evening was hearing everyone’s #mywatermark, a video booth dedicated to recording your connection with your favourite body of water. I chose Lake Temagami, after summer after summer camping there during my childhood. While I had at least a dozen memories flood me while I was recording, I was struck with the very real concern that the carefree days of dipping my bucket in the lake and drinking until I was done may be gone and behind me. Is the water still as pristine and clean as when I was a child? How can I provide the same memories, the same confidence in our drinking water to my own kids now? While that answer may not be clear, it’s comforting to know that I’m not alone in this-it is our shared responsibility.
While the Waterkeeper Gala may be over, it’s never too late to join the conversation. Share your own #mywatermark story online and get involved with Waterkeeper’s initiatives by following them on Twitter. Waterkeeper is behind the amazing Swim Guide, a requirement for summer, available for download in the iTunes store and for Google Play.
Many thanks for Waterkeeper for inviting me to such an amazing event! And thank you to Evan Bergstra for snapping this one for me!