FWEE Hits a Homerun with Hydro Appreciation Day at Seattle Mariners Baseball Game

Baseball is America’s pastime. Hydropower is America’s original renewable. It’s only fitting that Randy Stearnes felt compelled to plan an event to bring together these great national traditions — and two of his biggest passions.

Randy is a recently retired community relations officer from Tacoma Power and serves on the Foundation for Water and Energy Education’s (FWEE) Board of Directors. Prior to his career in hydropower, he worked for the Seattle Mariners. In early 2018, he suggested holding Hydro Appreciation Day, an event that would bring community members and hydro lovers together to watch a Seattle Mariners baseball game at Safeco Field in Seattle.

The idea got the green light in March 2018 and the game was scheduled for July 22 — no one knew whether the idea could be pulled off in just four months. But FWEE got to work, rallying 26 other utilities and industry associations to join the effort and help promote a day to celebrate hydropower.

Most of the promotion was done using Facebook and Instagram. The foundation held a Hydro Appreciation Day Count Down campaign, which occurred before the event and included weekly posts with facts about hydropower and the event. Its partners helped by sharing the foundation’s efforts to their own social media followers. In the end, the foundation’s 14 total posts received more than 34,000 views on Instagram and more than 33,000 views on Facebook, thanks largely to promotion by its partners.

“It was a remarkable way for the industry to communicate with thousands of people about benefits of hydropower leading up to the game,” says FWEE’s Executive Director Andy Dunau.

One of its partners, Seattle City Light, created a video promoting hydropower to show on the scoreboard during the game. Another partner, Chelan County Public Utility District, created artwork used during the campaign.

To boost interaction with its followers, FWEE held a haiku contest, encouraging people to submit hydro appreciation haiku poems for the possibility of winning free tickets to the baseball game. The foundation chose some of the haikus to share as part of the countdown and encourage even more participation. In the end, the foundation received nearly 120 haiku submissions.

“The haikus were an organic way to tell the hydropower story. People in the industry have come up with a thousand and one ways to talk about hydro,” Dunau says. “This was telling the story through regular people of all ages. It was wonderful organic storytelling that we couldn’t do on our own.”

When game day arrived, the foundation had a booth featuring information about hydropower projects, park information, statistics, and maps for all fans attending the game to visit and learn more about hydropower. The ceremonial first pitch was thrown by a high school student selected from the 2018 graduating class from the FWEE Hydropower and STEM Academy. Washington’s Governor Jay Inslee provided a hydro appreciation proclamation for the day.

The day was a success, with more than 900 tickets sold and perfect baseball weather. “It was a party; everyone loved being at the game,” Dunau says.

The effort not only raised awareness to game attendees; it also raised awareness about hydropower to the thousands of additional people who saw and interacted with the social media campaign.

“The Hydro Appreciation Day with the Mariners event went beyond our expectations as a partner with the Foundation for Water and Energy Education,” says Public Affairs Supervisor for the Grant County Public Utility District Chuck Allen. “As a hydro operator on the Columbia River, this level of engagement is vital to help us promote our message about the benefits of hydropower in the Northwest and the role it has in powering our way of life.”

A plan is already in the works to hold a second Hydro Appreciation Day in the summer of 2019. This time, the event will occur during a soccer match between the Seattle Sounders and the Portland Timbers on July 21 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.

The count down will include another contest — this time encouraging social media followers to submit diamante poems about hydropower. Because the foundation was able to get an earlier start this year, it’s hoping to increase outreach by promoting the event to schools and club soccer teams.

FWEE’s efforts were honored by the National Hydropower Association, which awarded it with a 2019 Outstanding Stewards of America’s Waters award in the category of Public Education.