Living Lands & Waters, an award-winning non-profit organization, is marking a huge milestone this year — the launch of a new classroom barge and Quad-City headquarters. To celebrate, founder Chad Pregracke and his crew will host the 2023 Barge Party on June 15th at Beacon Harbor in East Moline.

The event will showcase the newest Living Lands & Waters barge, which holds the new “Mississippi River Institute Floating Classroom,” an educational structure that will be centered around educating students about careers on the river, the group announced this week. The classroom barge is a state-of-the-art facility that will provide students with hands-on learning experiences that will inspire them to become stewards of the maritime industry.

Many of the materials used in the construction were repurposed and include found items from the river.

Part of the new floating classroom barge.

For the last 25 years, the LL&W crew has worked on 25 rivers in 21 states, hosting thousands of waterfront cleanups. With the assistance of over 126,000 volunteers, LL&W has removed over 13 million pounds of garbage from America’s rivers, the group release said. In addition, the team has planted 1.9 million native hardwood trees throughout the Plains, Midwest, East, and Southeast U.S.

The interior of the new classroom barge under construction.

A highlight of the June 15 Barge Party will be the art auction featuring environmentally-themed artwork made from natural, repurposed, or recycled materials. Established in 2003, with the help of local artist Heidi Sallows, the goal of the art auction is to celebrate art made from natural materials while raising operating funds for LL&W.

Attendees will have the opportunity to bid on unique pieces of art while supporting a great cause.

Living Lands & Waters will provide free parking and shuttles for the event at John Deere Harvester Works, 1100 13th Ave., East Moline.

In addition to the art auction, the 2023 Barge Party will feature live music by the QC band For Those About to Yacht (specializing in smooth hits of the ’70s and ’80s), a BBQ, Fish Fry & Shrimp Boil, Wine Pull, and a cash bar. Guests will have the opportunity to tour the new classroom barge and learn more about Living Lands & Waters’ mission to clean up America’s rivers.

“We are thrilled to celebrate the launch of our new classroom barge and Quad City headquarters with the 2023 Barge Party,” Chad Pregracke said in the event release. “This event is a celebration of our commitment to educating the next generation about the importance of protecting our rivers and preserving our environment. We look forward to sharing our new facility with the community and raising funds to support our ongoing efforts.”

The 2023 Barge Party will take place on June 15 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Beacon Harbor in East Moline. Tickets are $75 per person, or a table of 8 for $600, and can be purchased online at the LL&W website HERE.

Chad Pregracke, head and founder of Living Lands and Waters.

Pregracke started Living Lands & Waters in 1998 as a nonprofit organization dedicated to the beautification and restoration of America’s major rivers and the education of environmental issues. From his single-boat beginning, LL&W has grown to an industrial-strength, internationally-known organization with a fleet of barges and workboats.

Spending up to nine months a year living on the barge, LL&W engages thousands of volunteers each year in river cleanups, hands-on environmental education workshops, the Great Mississippi River Cleanup, Adopt-a-River-Mile, Alternative Spring Break, the I-80 Restoration Project, Invasive Species Removal, the MillionTrees Project and Recycle Like a Rockstar.

They are still accepting donations for the art auction. The organization is looking for environmentally-themed artwork made from natural, repurposed, or recycled materials, but all donations and media are appreciated. Contact Megan Shanafelt at 309-553-0492 or here to submit.

The QC band For Those About to Yacht plays “yacht rock,” consisting of smooth hits from the ’70s and ’80s.

For Those About to Yacht will be playing in the Village of East Davenport for the Kwik Star Criterium on Monday, May 29, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information about Living Lands & Waters, click HERE.