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Columbia's Earth Day festival provides education and entertainment

Sunday, May 2, 2010 | 6:59 p.m. CDT; updated 7:41 p.m. CDT, Sunday, May 2, 2010
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The event featured many musical artists as well as booths providing everything including food and a children's hands-on touch tank. The original date for the celebration was April 25, but it was rained out and rescheduled.

COLUMBIA —Educating Columbia residents on how to be "greener" was a major focus of Columbia's 2010 Earth Day festival on Sunday. The event, originally scheduled for last week, took place on the streets around Peace Park and included educational information, such as tips on how to make your home more eco-friendly.

Elm, Eighth and Seventh Streets were closed to traffic as festival-goers were able to visit different booths displaying wares that included items such as eco-friendly household items and items made by local artists and jewelers. Along with the vendors, local musicians played in Peace Park, adding to the relaxed atmosphere.

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"It's a way to educate" said volunteer Cindy Mustard. Mustard is with the Voluntary Action Center and works with Columbia's Earth Day Coalition.

Booths along Elm Street, renamed "Eco-Avenue" for the day, focused on ways to make life a little greener , including drying racks and solar panels.

One of the more unusual eco-friendly ideas was the "green cemetery," which was promoted by Ozark Avalon Church of Nature. In a green cemetery, bodies are not embalmed. "There are over 60 chemicals in the body after it is embalmed," Bob James, a member of Ozark Avalon Church said. "All that is going into the ground." 

James added that green cemeteries are less expensive than traditional ones. A wicker coffin would be more cost efficient and biodegradable than a metal or wooden one.

Along with education, games and activities for children were part of the Earth Day festival. Tom Sager invited children to play a Dr. Seuss-themed game.

"Plant a tree for the Lorax" he said in a friendly voice over the crowd.

Sager, a member of the board of directors for Great Rivers Environmental Law Center, came up with the game to educate children about carbon footprints. The game, like pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, involved sticking paper trees onto a board studded with fabric fastener.

After Sager recited the book "The Lorax," the children were blindfolded and asked to "plant" the tree. Once they planted the tree, they were given three carbon credits, or Hersey's kisses, for their good deed.

Among the belly-dancers and food vendors, people were taking in the sights and smells of the festival. "It was a nice day, and something fun to do," said Linda Brown.  She has attended the festival for many years. This year marked the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.


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