Earth Day brings educational excitement to Columbia

Sunday, April 17, 2011 | 7:00 p.m. CDT; updated 11:30 p.m. CDT, Monday, April 18, 2011

COLUMBIA — Music filled the air as people walked from booth-to-booth downtown Sunday at the 41st annual Earth Day festival..

While wellness screenings and Jamaican jerk chicken might not ordinarily go together, it was this combination of variety, entertainment and education opportunities that brought people from all over Columbia to the Peace Park area.

Midway Heights Elementary School students summed up the Earth Day festival theme when they sang, "We're gonna rock the world until everybody hears."

With more than 230 vendors, booths and activities, the festival had a variety of vendors promoting specific causes, organizations or events.

Natural Woman, a booth that sold all natural bath and body products, was created to support a healthy human body. "People are much more conscious about what they're putting on their bodies as well as in their bodies," said Elaine Larson, owner and creator of Natural Woman. "When I give you shea butter, it's just shea butter. There are no added chemicals."

Celtic Wyndes Farm and Shoppe was another booth where the vendors attempted to make people aware of toxic chemicals and substances within foods. The booth featured all locally-grown plants and walnuts as well as homemade jams and jellies. In addition to creating a healthier person, Celtic Wyndes put together "Cow Pots," which are made from cow manure and allows gardeners to place the pot directly in the ground with the plant inside.

"It saves time planting. You're not paying for the plastic, and nothing has to be recycled," said Terri McHugh, who worked at the Celtic Wyndes booth.

Vendors at the Columbia Paranormal booth attracted people by telling real-life ghost stories and raffling off the chance to go on a ghost hunt to raise money for Red Cross Japan.

"We believe there are two planes of existence: the living and the non-living. The spirits are part of the Earth, too. We're sharing it together, and it's wonderful learning from them," said Holly McGee, director of Columbia Paranormal.

Several booths were dedicated to raising awareness for the fair treatment of animals.

Three-week-old lamb, Poppy, was the star of the Hybrid Hollow Productions booth. Photographer Kim Carr took pictures of people with the lamb, which helped draw attention to the booth.

Carr photographs various animals such as peacocks, ducks, cows and dogs and uses them to create postcards or framed work. She said she hopes her photos promote animal awareness and sustainable agriculture.

Jewelry, hats, knitted products, cloth diapers, plastic bag holders, and drying racks for clothes, were some of the many handcrafted products offered at the festival. Main Squeeze Natural Foods Cafe even took time out to offer organic delights to festivalgoers.

People attending the festival could learn from vendors and volunteers in more ways than traveling from booth to booth asking questions. "Eco Avenue" Schoolhouse was designed to provide a cool, shady place for people to sit and learn from volunteers and vendors in 10-to-15 minute presentations.

Amanda Reynolds was in town to see friends, and decided to come to the festival.

"My daughter was born on Earth Day so this is a big deal for us," said Reynolds. "It raises awareness of what's going on and gets people out and meeting people they may not have normally met."

Doug Elley, 64, drove 35 miles from Lupus for the festival.

"To come back here once a year is a chance to hear music and spend time empathizing with people about the same causes," said Elley. "I didn't think twice about driving to Columbia to enjoy this day."

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