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Cecelia Anderson, 7, plays a game called "Web of Life" with Marge Evans, center, on Saturday in the National Sequestration Education Center at Richland Community College during the 2018 Sangamon Watershed Celebration. The event featured family friendly activities, educational speakers, exhibits and a film about the Sangamon River.

DECATUR — If you ask seven-year-old Cecelia Anderson where the hawk stands within nature's great food chain, she'll respond about as quickly as the bird of prey can fly. 

"Nothing can eat me!" she proudly declared Saturday morning during the annual Sangamon Watershed Celebration, an event dedicated to spotlighting the history and continued impact the river has within Central Illinois. 

Cecelia played as a hawk during one of the celebration's many family-friendly activities — a game called Web of Life, which teaches players about what several different creatures can or cannot eat for nourishment. 

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Rowen Pankau, 4, checks out some items under a microscope at the Upper Sangamon River Conservancy booth Saturday in the National Sequestration Education Center at Richland Community College during the 2018 Sangamon Watershed Celebration.

Tina Owens-Anderson, Cecelia's mother, said she couldn't count how many times they played the game together on Saturday. The White Heath resident said the celebration was a great way for her and her daughter to spend quality time bonding over things they find interesting.

"We're nature freaks," said Owens-Anderson, a master gardener with the University of Illinois Extension.

Hosted at Richland Community College's National Sequestration Education Center, the day-long event featured several educational exhibits from groups like the Sangamon River Alliance and Prairie Rivers Network that focused on topics such as microscopic pond life and monarch butterfly activity. 

The schedule also included guest speakers and breakout sessions, including a dinner and screening of the documentary "The Sangamon River: A Sense of Place." University of Illinois Springfield Professor Charles Schweighauser was scheduled to lead a discussion about the film after the screening. 

Some of the event's co-sponsors included the Agricultural Watershed Institute, Sangamon River Alliance and Decatur Audubon Society. 

"The watershed celebration's been going on, I would say, about 10 years," said Melody Arnold, president of the Audubon Society. "This is only the second year that we've had the morning component where we've had activities for the community, for kids (and) families."

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John Beardsley talks about the Illinois River Basin including the tributary watersheds on Saturday in the National Sequestration Education Center at Richland Community College during the 2018 Sangamon Watershed Celebration. 

Arnold said the reason behind adding the two-hour block of family activities to the event was to educate the entire community about the Sangamon River's rich, lengthy history and about the large ecosystem that it supports to this day. 

Sometimes referred to as "Abraham Lincoln's River" due to its association with the 16th president's early settlement in Illinois, the Sangamon remains a key source of recreation for many and a home for various wildlife and plants.

Encouraging people to take up the challenge of helping to protect the river for future generations has been a driving force behind the annual event. 

"My organization is principally interested in how we manage land and soil resources to protect water quality in the river," said Steve John, president of the Agricultural Watershed Institute. "... So part of what we do, all of us here, is relate (the event) to the conservation of (the river).

Visitors also were able to learn about Richland's ongoing studies involving the process of carbon sequestration during Saturday's celebration. Richland co-sponsored the watershed celebration for the first time this year. 

David Larrick, director of the community college's sequestration program, described sequestration as the process of storing carbon dioxide deep underground to help prevent climate change. Through a variety of injection wells on or near the Richland campus, carbon within the atmosphere is captured, compressed into a liquid and permanently injected underground. 

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Six-year-old Mario Richards, left, learns about an anemometer from David Larrick on Saturday in the National Sequestration Education Center at Richland Community College during the 2018 Sangamon Watershed Celebration. An anemometer is an instrument for measuring the speed of the wind, or of any current of gas.

"We also have these other clean energy technologies that don't omit any (carbon), like wind and solar," Larrick said. "So this facility is more than carbon capture and storage, we're also demonstrating renewable sources."

While the watershed celebration will likely continue next year, Arnold said deciding to do the series of family activities again depended on Saturday's turnout.

Thanks to the continuous stream of adults and children that stopped by all morning, it seems her decision already may have been made. 

"Our turnout's been pretty good," Arnold said. "So we'll probably do it again next year."

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Contact Jaylyn Cook at (217) 421-7980. Follow him on Twitter: @jaylyn_HR

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Public Safety Reporter

Public safety reporter for the Herald & Review.

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