JACKSON COUNTY, IL (KFVS) - Flood season is here. That means communities along the Mississippi and Big Muddy Rivers in Southern Illinois are depending on levees to protect their homes.
KFVS News has reported on the community of Grand Tower fighting to save their failing levee and stop their town from being swept away. Now, that mission is stretching north into other communities along the Mississippi River.
For people like Jessica Fritsche, the towns the levee system protects like Grand Tower, Sand Ridge, Neunert, Raddle, and Cora, are more than just spots on a map. They are home.
"A break here could flood all of this. A break here would be devastating. It would flood all of it. It would go all the way down," Fritsche said.
"If we do not have strong levees moving forward, we will not have communities," Fritsche said.
That's why she along with other locals are raising money to repair the levees, because without them, flood waters would sweep their homes away.
"There's no doubt in my mind that in years past, this place wouldn't be here because the levee protects everybody, not just our business but every home around here," Jason Thies said.
Jacob and his wife Kristi own Bottoms Up Bar and Grill.
"We've had high water six times since they built the levee and it kept the water out," Jacob Thies said.
They hosted Levee Fest not only to help save their home but also their family's history.
"The home place would be gone where my mom was born and raised and Zach will be the fifth generation," Theis said.
If it weren't for the levee, the whole area would be underwater.
"The other sign shows how high the water could have been in 1993 had the levee breached or failed," Kevin Rathjen said.
Rathjen did the research...
"Many buildings would have been under down here," he said.
Rathjen says the goal is keep that from happening.
"People probably wonder 'Why do you live in an area like that?' Well, this is home. This is where we grew up, this is where we went to church, and this is where our businesses and farms are," Rathjen said.
He says Levee Fest is about coming together as a community to save their way of life.
Local say keeping levee in working condition is not just a one-day event, if you'd like to pitch in, you can visit this website.
Event organizers tell KFVS News the event was expected to raise about 50,000 dollars to go toward levee repairs.