Columbia Area Earth Day Festival greets the sun on rain-out date

Sunday, May 4, 2014 | 5:55 p.m. CDT; updated 6:57 a.m. CDT, Monday, May 5, 2014

Video by Susu Yan/Missourian

COLUMBIA — Blue skies and the hint of summer weather that many residents have been waiting for graced downtown Columbia on Sunday.

The sunshine was a welcome change for Earth Day festivalgoers, whose original date, April 27, was rained out. Instead of sporting umbrellas and raincoats, the hundreds of people who roamed the block of Elm Street between Ninth and Sixth streets were decked out in sunglasses and sandals.

Although a week later than originally planned, Sunday marked the Columbia Earth Day Coalition's 25th Columbia Area Earth Day Festival and the 44th such celebration in Columbia's history.

With people milling in the streets, children running around in the grass at the kids' park and live music playing on a stage in Peace Park, it was a hard event to miss — though not impossible.

"We just went to the post office and turned the corner and saw all these tents and decided to wander down," said festivalgoer John Old.

"We did not know this was here, and she's already bought a painting," he said, pointing to his wife, who was inspecting the contents of a nearby art tent.

Vendors made up some of the dozens of booths that lined the streets, selling a menagerie of items including local artwork, fried Oreos and hot dogs, and handmade jewelry and soap.

Eco Avenue made up the other portion of the booths. That stretch of the festival, on Elm Street between Seventh and Eighth streets, was devoted to educating the public on the environment and promoting ways to achieve a sustainable future.

Tao Weilundemo was at the festival promoting his sustainability education center, Maya Creek.

Maya Creek started out as a commune in 1972, created by a group of friends from the Columbia area, including Weilundemo's father. It began as part of the back-to-the-land movement from the 1960s and '70s, though the commune faded out after several years, Weilundemo said.

The land was abandoned in 1984, and it sat vacant for the next 25 years — until Weilundemo returned to try to fix up the cabin he was born in and maybe bring the area back to what his father had intended it to be.

"I was hoping to do a community, but that was too big to start with," Weilundemo said.

Instead, Weilundemo uses the 310 acres near Fulton to give tours of the old facilities and camping ground, as well as a place to host free workshops about sustainability.

 Columbia Transit also held a spot at the Earth Day festivities by pairing up the MU Architectural Studies sustainable technologies and systems class. Columbia Transit asked six teams of students to design new bus shelters and Columbia residents to vote for the best design. Students displayed their designs at a booth, welcoming questions — and votes— from festival attendees.

One design featured a structure made of panels of recycled concrete and steel. Because the current glass and plastic panels are susceptible to being broken (costing the city $800 per panel), the sturdier materials would last longer and could be painted like the light boxes downtown, team member Olivia Taylor said. The structure would also feature vertical bike racks, solar panels to power night lights, and porous pavement that would allow rainwater to filter down into the ground instead of having to run off into gutters and storm drains.

"We've had a lot of fun trying to come up with different designs," Taylor said. "It's all recycled content, and can be recycled when it's done with."

The Earth Day festivities were more than a reason to get out of the house, but also promoted habits we should continue all year, festival attendee Jennifer Goyne said.

"It's a beautiful day and we wanted to walk around and see the vendors," Goyne said. "Earth Day, to me, is trying to conserve some of the resources you use ... and it's not just today, it's incorporated throughout the year."

Supervising editor is Stephanie Ebbs.

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