FAYETTEVILLE — With the stunning New River Gorge as a fitting backdrop, the sixth annual New River Earth Day Celebration invites citizens and their families to a fun-packed, joyful tribute to the natural world around us.
The Fayette County Green Advisory Team will host the celebration in downtown Fayetteville from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday.
As well as soaking up the full array of entertainment and games, festival-goers can learn about recycling, composting, alternative energy, water conservation, sustainability and reducing their ecological footprint.
The celebration’s official theme, “Reuse, Reduce, Recycle,” also draws attention to the Green Advisory Team’s recycling initiative.
“We’re really hoping to educate the public on the idea of ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,’ and get that message out to them — that they can recycle in Fayette County,” said Aimee Rist, celebration coordinator.
Rist explained that Earth Day is a natural fit for communities already so closely connected to the land, like many in Fayette County.
“Rural communities are the original ‘green’ communities,” said Rist. “We are in a rural area, and this is where we can do a lot because we already take care of the land.”
The Earth Day Celebration will make it clear that honoring the earth can often be pure fun. The celebration features family-friendly activities, such as a kids’ zone with an inflatable play center and climbing wall, carnival games, free raffle, chalk area, sing-along, and interactive water demonstration.
The whole family can enjoy live music from three bands, a bake sale and a slew of local vendors who will line the streets and fill the courthouse lawn.
Vendors include Tiffany Massie’s “Pocketbookity” recycled purses, recycled jewelry from Sara Miller, fresh local treats from the Fayette Farmers Market and local artists showcasing everything from pottery to paintings and stained glass. The Habitat for Humanity ReStore will provide information on quality salvaged materials, and Erin Larsen, who runs the Vital Change health program, will display green cleaning and nutritional products.
On the practical side, the festival will also offer families the rare chance to recycle batteries (not car) and cell phones, along with plastics, cardboard, office paper, newspapers, magazines, aluminum, stainless steel, steel 1 and 2, brass and sheet metal in a special recycling dropoff area.
“We can’t do that in Fayetteville, so that will be a cool thing to do for one day,” said Rist.
As the Green Advisory Team sets goals for more extensive programs, however, that kind of recycling may be possible someday.
“We’re really trying to emphasize that, because I think thats exciting,” Rist said.
“We need the whole community to get involved.”
At the “Rags to Riches” clothing swap, participants can spring clean and shop at the same time.
“The clothing swap is an opportunity for people to exchange or donate their old apparel,” said Karen Domzalski, Earth Day volunteer. “What remains after Earth Day will be donated to charity.
“It’s an opportunity for people to clean out their closets, donate those old threads and find some new treasures.”
All clothes must be washed and in good condition.
Festival planners have reached out far and wide to involve the community for an even more vibrant Earth Day.
Stephanie Dodson, of Collins Middle School, won the student logo design contest among county schools.
Her logo will adorn 100 giveaway recycled cotton bags, as well as posters and fliers.
Meanwhile, the “Best Decorated Window” award has already sparked friendly competition among downtown businesses, including The Vandalian Restaurant, Wild Flour Bakery, Swirl and Water Stone Outdoors.
“I know Water Stone was working on it; they were challenging The Vandalian,” said Rist. “I think the window challenge will get people going into businesses, and we’ll be talking about local businesses and how they support us.”
More so than in the past, the businesses have reached out to the festival by donating or holding fundraisers, according to Rist.
“The community has really been very involved,” Rist said.
“Our sponsors are local restaurants, and local businesses are giving money. It’s definitely a community event this time around.”
Rist explained that the festival’s success can boost environmental awareness and support local businesses at the same time, following the central environmental principle of interconnectedness.
“It’s really just built momentum. People are talking about it in other communities, so that's been a good thing for local businesses,” she said.
Momentum has definitely built.
The festival has exploded in size, from roughly 30 attendees the first year to several hundred last year.
As an extra treat, the Plateau Action Network will motivate residents to take action with the fourth annual Wild and Scenic Film Festival at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Historic Fayette Theater. The program focuses on exploration and adventure films. For more information, visit www.plateauactionnetwork.org/get-involved.html.
The films echo what Rist described as the celebration’s primary purpose:
“To remind people to take care of the Earth and take care of where they live because it’s all that we have. If we take care of it, it will take care of us.”
In case of rain, the celebration will move indoors to the county Memorial Building on Maple Avenue.