Ladies night at ponds raises funds for improvements

Local women participate in a drum circle at the Bear River Greenway in Evanston during the second annual Ladies Only Paddle Boat Night on Aug. 8. (HERALD PHOTO/Kayne Pyatt)

EVANSTON — The second annual Ladies Only Paddle Boat Night was held on Monday, Aug. 8, at the Bear Ice Ponds. The women-only event is a fundraiser for improvements to the Bear Meadows area and, most recently, the children’s play area there.

The committee members who organized the paddle boat night include Patricia Arnold, Marilee Jackson, Kim Larsen, Natalie Wren and ReaAnna Peltier.

Forty women registered with their paddle boats. As the women arrived at the Bear Pavilion, they were treated to a food and wine bar and an opportunity to place their bids on donated silent auction items. Each registrant received a complimentary bag filled with a special T-shirt with the paddle boat logo design, donated by Brenda Richins of Varsity Ink; a light-up bracelet and necklace and a whistle for emergency calls.

Arnold started the evening’s program by leading a drum circle on the lawn behind the pavilion. Plastic bottles filled with rice or rocks were handed out to those without drums. Everyone joined in on a spirited round of drumming.

“This evening is an opportunity to celebrate the refreshing water of the ponds and to celebrate women,” Arnold said. “We organize this so that we can come together in community and celebrate who we are and our strength. The money from the registration fees all, every penny, goes to the BEAR project. A big thank you to Brenda at Varsity Ink who donated the T-shirts.”

Following the drumming session, the women were given 30 minutes to finish decorating their paddle boats in hopes of winning a contest for “Wild Woman” and “Free Spirit” entries.

Before the launching of the boats just before nightfall, the two judges announced the winners.  Mary Boal won the Wild Woman prize for her witch costume and “witchy” decorated boat, while Tammy Koncitik and Shelley Pilarczyk won the Free Spirit prize for their boat, made to look like a bubble bath and showerhead.

Jackson then conducted a water ceremony.

“The water that surrounds us is the lifeblood of our community,” she said. “It flows right through the center of town, quenching our thirst, cleaning our bodies, bringing joy to our souls. The water from the Uintas flows down the Bear River; at Red Bridge there is a diversion that brings water to this pond and right over there is a gate that pushes the water back into the river. The water flows in, the water flows out, constantly changing, constantly renewing itself, constantly in motion, not staying stuck in one place.”

Jackson asked the women and herself to think about how they might be stuck or how they might find joy in the moment. She spoke of water as one of the vital elements of life and health, and a precious source of inspiration. To many religions, she said, water is a sacred gift and symbolizes purity, clarity and calmness.

Jackson gave each woman a small glass bottle in which she had collected moon water during the most recent full sturgeon moon, a Botswana agate (symbolizing an eye) and a tiny seashell she had gathered from the Bay of Cortez, where the Colorado River runs into the ocean. 

“The water invigorates us to connect with our networks … those that love and support us,” Jackson said. “The eye stone helps us to see the bigger picture and solutions for life’s situations, and the sea shell is a symbol of protection with strong protective energy.”

Then, one by one, the women entered the water with their paddle boats. Many had lights on their boats so, as darkness fell and the moon rose, the water was dotted with colored lights.

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