COLUMBIA — The sound of blues music and the smell of roasting hot dogs filled the Kenneth Ralph Shelter at Douglass Park on Saturday afternoon.
About 30 people gathered at the pavilion for Love Fest-Soul Day, an event that mixed community building and Earth Day celebration.
The event included a barbecue, dance contest, garden center, art center and live blues music.
Rhonda Woolsey, who had the idea for the event, said it was a combination of everything she loves: Earth Day, giving youth positive things to do, helping kids and helping a community appreciate itself.
"I think that everything should be holistic," she said. "Earth Day's not just about the planet, it's about the people."
Jennifer Shearin, a volunteer at the event, said she usually attends the Earth Day festival downtown, but saw Love Fest-Soul Day as a good opportunity to reach people who might not attend that event.
"It gives this particular neighborhood community a chance to get together and have a positive gathering," Mary Ford, another volunteer, said.
Volunteers said that in addition to fostering community, the event helped raise environmental awareness. Volunteer Alicia Adams, who worked at a table that included a variety of plants and a "worm bucket," said most kids were not necessarily exposed to plants outside of seeing them in the grocery store.
"It's giving them a different look at it," she said.
Adams said the event showed positive events going on in the community. She said that many people have heard a lot about shootings that have happened in the area recently.
"I think this can show a different light in this community that isn't about that," she said.
For Justin Thomas, who helped Woolsey organize the event, Love Fest-Soul Day was less about Earth Day and more about getting civic participation, improving communication and getting people involved in what is happening in their neighborhood.
Sally Blocker, who attended the event, agreed that for her, it was more about getting together with her community.
"I feel like everybody should get together and get along," she said.
Tyree Byndom, who was the event's Douglass Park Neighborhood Association sponsor, said Love Fest-Soul Day provided an event that was more culturally relevant to the minority community. He said the event both provided an opportunity for community and had a focus on environmental stewardship.