Columbia to celebrate Earth Day in Peace Park

Thursday, April 22, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 10:15 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, April 27, 2010

COLUMBIA — Columbia has watched Earth Day grow from a seedling to a robust tree. The holiday has been celebrated in some form since its conception 40 years ago.

This year’s festival will feature about 200 booths and the return of a second stage for jazz performances. A complete list of performers can be found on the Columbia Earth Day Coalition website.

If you go

When: noon to 7 p.m. Sunday

Where: Peace Park and adjacent streets

Cost: Free

The Columbia Earth Day Coalition requests that you don't bring dogs.

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Throughout the life of the festival, organizers have adapted to meet the public's needs.

“As it's grown, we’ve identified things that have reached a critical mass and found a specific place for them,” said Jan Weaver, director of MU's environmental studies program.

Eco Avenue is an area of the festival dedicated entirely to booths featuring interactive displays about sustainability. This year’s celebration will introduce the addition of Eco Avenue Schoolhouse, in which speakers will give short presentations on topics ranging from solar power and geothermal energy to urban hens and green burial.

The first Earth Day was created by Wisconsin Sen. Gaylord Nelson, who was  concerned about the country's lack of environmental awareness. Inspired by anti-Vietnam War protests in the form of “teach-ins,” Nelson announced a nationwide demonstration in the spring of 1970 to spark a response at the grassroots level due to what was being done to the environment.

Twenty million Americans answered the call and participated in the first Earth Day. MU was one of an estimated 2,000 college campuses to take part, and Columbia has hosted some sort of observance ever since. Some years, the festivities went on for days and included lectures on the MU campus as well as in Peace Park. Musicians, educational booths and performers have also been central to the celebration. 

The growth of participation in Columbia is a reflection of what has happened around the globe.

“Today, around one billion people around the world observe Earth Day, making it the largest secular holiday,” Emily Hartman, communications associate for the Earth Day Network, said in an e-mail.

Amanda Branco contributed to this report.

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Brooks Powell April 22, 2010 | 10:29 p.m.

As university students nationwide commemorated Earth Day, some took a moment to reflect on the era that gave rise to the national event. In a time of bold student activism over the Vietnam war, students became targets on their own campuses. Alan Canfora is an alumnus of Kent State. He shared his recollections of the tragic May 4 shootings with SMU students Wednesday night:

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