It's time we all knew about the Great Rivers Confluence Project! This consortium of parks, nature centers, and arts organizations extends around the confluence of three great rivers: The Mississippi, the St. Croix and the Kinnickinnic.

Okay, so major American cities, orchestras, museums, and shipping channels haven't grown up around the Kinnickinnic River -- mills, charming towns, state parks and the River Falls Community Arts Base (CAB) have.

Thus, Red Wing, Hastings, Prescott and River Falls have joined in this project:

"The purpose of the Great Rivers Confluence Project is to foster partnerships to cross geographic and jurisdictional boundaries.

"This collaborative effort works to: increase recognition and appreciation of this area; enhance existing resources; acquire funding for education, conservation and recreation; and ensure that all people can enjoy these assets in the future. The Confluence Project partners organizations from two states, three counties and four cities."

Last Tuesday, July 10, River Falls representatives joined a conference at the Carpenter Nature Center to plan the next Symposium for the Confluence Project -- for the first time including River Falls representatives.

Of course, the whole project got a boost when Huffington Post recently voted the Great River Road the "most scenic drive in the nation."

In case you haven't driven it, the Great River Road (Hwy. 35) stretches 250 miles along the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi River through Maiden Rock, Alma toward La Crosse.

Now River Falls gets a boost: the next Confluence project symposium will be at the River Falls Public library on Oct. 12!

In addition to representatives from the four cities involved, the planning session last Tuesday included representatives of the National Park Service, the Wisconsin and Minnesota DNRs as well as the Great River Road Visitor and Learning Center and CAB.

The next planning session, also at the River Falls Library, will include dignitaries of the four involved cities (mayors and Chamber representatives). That will be in September.

Then on Oct. 12, the Symposium will be held for up to 50 attendees representing each community and entity involved. It will introduce the website and the map (under construction) that will show visitors how to take advantage of the Confluence amenities: biking, hiking, birding, gallery browsing, art crawls, food and drink opportunities, concerts, etc.

The morning of the symposium will be a meeting for information; afternoon will be a bus tour of the Confluence area including a box lunch and stops for wine tasting and other adventures.

We're on the map folks!

From our perspective here in the Arts Minded Column, this is a great development for arts in our area. It could help bring the success of Art on the Kinni to many more of our smaller of our arts endeavors.

Meanwhile, we have some great opportunities to enjoy the arts right now:

Music in the Park: 7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Refreshments including Bubba's Chicken available:

--July 20, Patchouli: Acoustic Folk

--July 21, Tin Pan Alley Cats: Swing Jazz (mixed with blues & bossas)

--July 27, Denny Cooper: The Doc of Rock with Friends

--July 28, Wolf River Band: Country Rock with a local Family Band

--Aug. 3, River Falls Cultural Project: Standards from the local jazz icons

--Aug. 4, The Ditch Lillies: Sweet Harmonies and classic Bluegrass

UWRF Amphitheatre: There's still time to catch a couple of concerts.

--July 24: St. Croix Valley Community Band: March/ballad

--July 31: Yawo: Afrobeat/reggae

--Aug. 7: Shoeless Revolution: Funk/rock with Luna and the Sunbrothers (jazz).

--"Women & Water Rights "art exhibit at The Phipps, through Sun., July 22: It's a bang up multimedia exhibit with amazing works all related to water and women. The last day, July 22 will feature a roundtable discussion with visiting artists (free), 2:30 to 4 p.m.

--Found, Imagined, Assembled: Exhibit by Gary & Mary Ann Carlson of found objects, assemblages, abstract photography, and jewelry at the River Falls Public Library Lower Level Gallery. Opens July 21, with a reception from 1 to 3 p.m.

--Mary, Mary: St. Croix Off Broadway Dinner Theatre through August 4. Dinner served between 6 - 7 p.m.; curtain at 8 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays through Aug. 4. For reservations call 715-386.2394 ext. 333.

--GLOBAL M.A.D.E. -- Don't forget to stop in to see the current exhibit.