Organizers gear up for Earth Day

Friday, April 22, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 7:19 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Thousands of potential journalists will attend Columbia’s annual Earth Day Festival scheduled for Sunday. They won’t be armed with press passes or tape recorders, just thoughts and opinions.

Editors from, an online publication written primarily by the public, will have a booth at the festival where computers will be available for people to take on the role of “citizen journalist.”

Clyde Bentley, an associate professor in MU’s Center for Digital Journalism, is in charge of the project.

“In many ways, open-source journalism is like Earth Day in that from the very beginning it has been a people’s movement rather than an official movement,” Bentley said. “Open-source journalism is based on the public rather than traditional media.”

Writers will be encouraged to comment about the Earth and related issues. The question of the day is, “If you were in charge, what would you do with the Earth?” Comments will be immediately edited and posted on

Bentley said the Earth Day Festival is the perfect venue to showcase to the public.

“People that come to Earth Day are usually coming to Earth Day with an opinion and we want them to express it,” Bentley said.

In addition to being writers, people will have the opportunity to display their talents as photographers. The booth will have digital cameras on hand that people will be allowed to check out. The photos people take will be put on the Web site and displayed as the festival goes on.

The booth will be just one of 230 booths in the festival’s street fair. Other booths will feature local businesses, non-profit or-ganizations and local artists. The street fair will be held from noon to 6:30 p.m. on the streets adjacent to Peace Park.

Mark Haim, a spokesman for the Columbia Earth Day Coalition, said the street fair is a great venue for local organizations to reach a large audi-ence.

“It has grown to really be Columbia’s premiere spring festival,” Haim said. “There is an opportunity for all sorts of groups to have face time and interact with the community.”

Activities for families and kids during Sunday’s festival will be held from noon to 4 p.m. at Peace Park. Some of the featured activities will include plant-a-seed, catch-a-crayfish, sort-those-recyclables and animal art.

Jan Weaver, a member of the Columbia Earth Day Coalition, is in charge of running all the activities for Sunday’s festival.

“We want kids to get excited about being in nature and parents to be comfortable about being outside,” Weaver said. “We would like kids to learn a little bit more about how the decisions people make can effect the environment.”

A stage, which will feature local musical acts, also will be set up in Peace Park. The first act will take the stage at noon.

Haim said the Earth Day Festival is a unique celebration of a unique holiday.

“This is the one holiday during the course of the year that we focus in on the only planet that we know of that is habitable,” Haim said. “We surely need to focus attention on the planet to keep it healthy for us to live on.”

This is the 16th year Columbia has held the Earth Day Festival. The event is put on by a coalition of environmental groups, local agencies, univer-sity groups and other non-profit organizations. In the event of inclement weather, the Earth Day Festival will be moved to May 1.

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