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A mayfly festival? Seriously? Why would anyone celebrate mayflies?

If you happen to be a fish, you’d have all kinds of reasons. Mayflies, after all, are tasty larval snacks. They hang out under rocks, there for the picking.

After they hatch and fly above water, a fish can easily snap one up as it skims overhead. That spring hatch also feeds birds, spiders, beetles and some mammals. Mayflies are an important link in our food chain.

Humans have found that mayflies are cool because they’re a bio-indicator species. That’s scientific for, “They only live in good quality water,” said Alexa Carleton, Education Program Leader of the Coos Watershed Association in Coos Bay.

“If you find only fly larva and worms and mosquitoes, usually that’s not great water,” she added.

So let’s celebrate these tiny critters and have a little fun in Mingus Park Saturday, May 13 from 10 a.m. till 4 p.m. If its raining, head to the Harding Learning Center at 755 S Seventh St. in Coos Bay.

 “The festival will be a super fun, hands-on, all-ages event that will showcase high school students in the Coos Watershed Association Education programs. They will teach the community some cool things about nature and the place we live in through art, science, music, trivia and games,” Carleton said.

The headliner is the Banana Slug String Band from Santa Cruz, California.  These former camp counselors take the stage about noon. Yes, they sing songs written mostly for child audiences, but, as one mother put it, “A parent can listen to The Slugs over and over without the desire to strangle a purple dinosaur.”

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“It began in a redwood forest. There are banana slugs there,” Doug Dirt, of The Slugs, tells us. “We teach the kids that (banana slugs) have a place in the choir and are primary in the growth of the tallest trees in the world. We help to heal the emotional feelings about slugs. We give them the opportunity to understand that which might be gross might be beautiful: Slugs are decomposers.”

Kids naturally find mud puddles and dirt to be wonderful, Doug noted. It’s a natural step for them to want to know science. The Slugs’ ‘Singing in Our Garden’ cd is about gardens, pools, math, science and skills throughout. The song, ‘Dirt Made My Lunch’ is a big hit, he said.

These self-described “earth geeks,” are all credentialed teachers who integrate arts and science. Their musical styles vary from Stevie Wonder to old soul to Dillon. They’ve played as Grateful Dead’s cover band. Two of The Slugs, Doug Dirt and Airy Larry will visit Coos Bay.

The Slugs have 11 recordings featuring George Winston, Lori Lewis, Victor Wooten and more.

In addition to the Mingus Park festival and two school assemblies, The Slugs will give a more adult-themed performance at 7 Devils Friday, May 12 at 8 p.m.

Carleton described the festival as “an activity based event” with local high school students sharing their own watershed expertise with the public.

“This is not political, Doug said. “Everybody wants a clean environment, good soil, clean water. Whether you’re red, green or purple, everybody wants the same for their families.”

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