A Party for the Planet

Crowds gather to celebrate and spread information at Earth Day festival
Monday, April 23, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:21 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Kevin Grace helps his daughter Ruby Grace, 6, get off stilts at Peace Park during the Earth Day celebration. Children used the barrels of hay to get onto and off the stilts, and parents helped them walk around in circles.

Alex Maginness and his 7-year-old daughter, Aubrielle, sat on a blanket Sunday in Peace Park at Columbia’s Earth Day 2007.

“We came for the Earth and to play with our friends,” Aubrielle said.

“Well, lots of our friends are here,” her dad said, laughing, “But it’s also a great day to join together and celebrate the Earth and remember we need to protect it.”

The Maginnesses were among the 10,000 to 15,000 people, mostly Boone County residents, who were expected to attend the annual event.

Mark Haim, director of Mid-Missouri Peaceworks, one of the event’s sponsors, said Earth Day reminds people of the small steps they can take to make a big difference.

“Each one of us has an environmental footprint,” he said.

While Americans make up nearly 5 percent of the global population, the U.S. counts for 25 percent of environmental impact, Haim said.

“Each of us needs to look at the pieces of our lives and the different ways in which we can make a change,” he said.

One of the displays at Eco Avenue, a stretch of informational booths in the center of the fair, offered examples of clean energy sources homeowners can install. Barbara Buffaloe, a housing and environmental design associate specialist, and MU students installed solar panels on a mock roof and a wind turbine to show residents how they can use the sun and wind to supplement their home energy.

At other booths, organic potted plants were for sale and tie-dyed clothes fluttered on hangers in the breeze. Families ate ice cream and funnel cakes, and local bands played.

In Columbia, there are “a lot of progressive-minded people,” said Johann Holt, Eco Avenue coordinator. He also said many residents want to change but don’t know how.

Holt suggests many small steps people can take to change their homes, such as unplugging appliances when they are not in use, replacing light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs, making sure the refrigerator is de-iced and cooking multiple dishes in the oven at once.

Such changes reinforce the idea in people’s minds that “no one can do everything; everyone can do something,” Haim said.

Mary Schaefer, who came to Columbia’s Earth Day from St. Louis, sold quilted items, benefiting the organization United for Peace and Justice. Last year, she decided she wanted to sell “Pot Holders For Peace,” so she started making them. When it got boring, she said she kept going, making pillows, pin cushions, cat toys and place mats.

This year, she heard co-workers talking about Earth Day, she said, and one said to another, “So what?”

“It’s just inexcusable,” Schaefer said. “Everybody needs to be aware.”

This need for awareness is especially important in Columbia, Buffaloe said.

“We are the heartland,” she said. “This represents what we think all Americans should be doing — living responsibly.”

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