Portraits from the Columbia Area Earth Day Festival

Sunday, May 4, 2014 | 8:17 p.m. CDT; updated 10:05 a.m. CDT, Monday, May 5, 2014

COLUMBIA — Fresh scents of grilled food filled the air, live music thudded in the background, and lots of vendor booths lined the streets near Peace Park for the annual Columbia Area Earth Day Festival on Sunday. 

Hundreds of community members, local vendors and organizations gathered to celebrate the event, which was originally scheduled on April 27 but was rescheduled because of inclement weather.

According to the event's website, the purpose of the event is to raise awareness and initiate a response to today's multiple environmental challenges.

The festival featured live music from acts including Merry Ellen Kirk and the Grant Elementary 4th and 5th Grade All Stars choir, as well as performances by DanceArts of Columbia.

Local vendors included The Peace Nook, the Columbia Farmers Market and Good Nature.

Jim Yankee, a Columbia resident who attended the event with his family, said his favorite part of the festival is seeing everyone in the community and spending leisure time with his family. 

"I've been here a number of times for many years," Yankee said. "It's a chance to come out and spend time with family and enjoy the environment and the day."

Portraits from the Columbia Area Earth Day Festival

Gillian Frazier poses before her performance with DanceArts of Columbia for the annual Columbia Area Earth Day Festival on Sunday at Peace Park. Frazier was excited and confident about performing for the first time in front of a crowd outside of school. In regard to taking care of the Earth, Frazier said she believes it is important. "It's important so that we can have a healthy environment and so we can survive longer."

 Vivian Melody, left, and Hannah Hemmelgarn, co-founders of the Wild Wonder Project, stand in front of their display at the annual Columbia Area Earth Day Festival on Sunday. According to the mission statement of the Wild Wonder Project, the goal of the organization is "to empower and inspire youth through experiential outdoor creative play and skill building."

"Kids still yearn for that," Hemmelgarn said. "With my parents, we played outside, we floated on the river, we hiked every chance we got. It's a great way to bond as a family. Having that connection breeds a love, and respect, and honoring for the natural world. I think the reason that I value our environment so much today is for the same reason. I played outside and so I loved it." Melody and Hemmelgarn plan to run a one-week nature immersion camp for children ages 3 to 6 to explore the wilderness this summer.  

Sabrina Bias, midwife apprentice, smiles for a portrait at the annual Columbia Area Earth Day Festival on Sunday. Bias said she enjoys the festival because it allows people to be more aware and be in tune with the Earth. She is part of the Columbia Area Midwives organization. "Our biggest thing is gentle birth," Bias said. "We want to empower moms and respect their decisions as active participants in birth, whether that is in the hospital or not. We are very passionate about women having choices."

 Performer Merry Ellen Kirk sings at the annual Columbia Area Earth Day Festival on Sunday. "Life is like a carnival when I'm with you," Kirk sang. "You make my heart spin around like a carousel, like a Ferris wheel." According to her website, Kirk's music is about seeing the world and making it a better place.


Clarise Keith, volunteer, smiles for a portrait at the annual Columbia Area Earth Day Festival on Sunday. Keith said the festival is one of the highlights of the year because it brings awareness to green issues and highlights the local community. "As a person I try to live as green and ethically as I can," Keith said. "I'm really into gardening, recycling, and reusing, and what individuals can do to help out. Rather than trying to promote the big picture, individuals can do a lot around their home to save the earth."  Keith credits her attitude to her self-sustaining parents. "That was how I was raised. To know about how our lives interact with the environment, the Earth, and the community."

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