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Local fish luring people to annual Elgin Green Expo

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Updated: May 12, 2013 12:04PM

ELGIN — It had rained pretty hard Thursday, but not so hard you’d expect to see fish swimming by in downtown Elgin.

But there they were — about 150 fish from 23 different species, all from the Fox River. There were the familiar game fish: walleye, muskie, crappie, bluegill and several types of bass, according to Steve Pescitelli, a streams biologist for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

And there were others “people don’t get to see,” Pescitelli said. That included the longnose gar, “really an ancient fish that’s been around since the dinosaurs,” he said.

“That’s the great thing about this.”

Those fish will be on display through the weekend in the country’s largest 5,000-gallon portable aquarium, parked outside The Centre of Elgin, 100 Symphony Way.

The aquarium is part of the Elgin Green Expo, celebrating its fifth year with not just four, but five elements: earth, wind, fire, water and spirit, according to organizers.

More than 5,000 people are expected to attend the expo Friday and Saturday at The Centre. It is sponsored by the Elgin Climate Change Organization, Waste Management, Davey Tree and the city of Elgin Sustainability Commission.

“It’s just educating people in a fun way,” organizer Sigi Psimenos said.

“We want them to understand that by going green they’re going to save green. It’s not costly to do, and they’re keeping the money local when you do things sustainably.”

The expo will kick off with a celebration of the “spirit” of sustainable living, recognizing 20 area residents and organizations at the first Green Awards, at 7 p.m. Friday. The awards have been hand-crafted by local potter Michelle Kohout and will be presented by Mayor Dave Kaptain.

From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, more than 150 vendors will introduce area residents to ways they can incorporate sustainability into their own homes and lives at the expo.

Members of the Elgin Green Teens will unveil an interactive sculpture – an eagle made of shiny recyclable materials. Residents can bring their own materials to add to the sculpture, Green Teens member Taylor Henson, 18, of Elgin said.

They also can bring electronics to recycle, which will be collected by Elgin’s Habitat/ReStore in front of the Centre, organizers said. Organizers also have purchased carbon off-sets for a community carnival across the street from the Centre at 260 N. Grove Ave., too.

And celebrating the elements means visits from the International Heritage Conservancy, bringing live hawks and falcons from the region, and the portable aquarium, called the Hawg Trough. The Friends of the Fox River will be available to talk about the fish and the condition of the Fox River both Friday and Saturday, Psimenos said.

Ryan Black said he’s driven the Hawg Trough to New Jersey, Massachusetts and Colorado, usually to hunting and fishing or fishing and RV shows. But, Black said, “It’s nice when they bring in local fish -- something people can relate to.”

The Illinois DNR had shocked the Fox River Thursday morning near Silver Springs State Fish and Wildlife Area in Kendall County and collected the fish, then used nets to transfer them from a small tank on the back of a pickup truck into the aquarium.

That afternoon, DNR field and streams biologist Bob Rung pointed out the smallmouth bass, probably the most popular among fisherman. And he pointed out the flathead catfish. That’s probably the biggest thing in the Fox River, reaching 40 pounds, he said.

Psimenos said the aquarium had the “wow factor” at last year’s expo, so popular organizers decided within the first half-hour of the event to bring it back every year.

And she hopes people will come away from the expo knowing not just a little more about fish, but also “how all these things work together” and “how it’s important to take care of the river so it takes care of us -- and the same thing with the clean air, the earth.”

More information about the Elgin Green Expo is at

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