Earth Day 2009

Mother Earth smiled upon Ashland Saturday afternoon as the eighth annual Rogue Valley Earth Day festivities provided eco-friendly entertainment, education and solutions while tackling the ever-elusive definition of sustainability.

"It's a great day for celebration," said Event Manager Paige Prewett. "The nice weather contributes to the attendance and how long people stay."

The event, six months in planning, was marred in 2008 by heavy winds and graced with snow the previous year.

On sustainability, Prewett said, "When people hear the word sustainability, they think of environmental sustainability, but true community sustainability looks at more than the environment. It also includes our economic sustainability as well as the sustainability of the people, so, to have a truly sustainable community, we need to look at these three aspects and help them to maintain vitality and thrive."

The carnival-like atmosphere of the day featured more than 70 sustainable living exhibits, eco-friendly eats and was a showcase for the unusual as well as the environmental.

Aside from the attendance of the Ashland Safety Chicken, solar powered matchbox-sized cars raced around, and the "Vello-Mobile" moved through the crowd in all its mechanical glory. The "Vello-Mobile," owned by Ashland residents K.B. and Merle, is much like an enclosed tricycle-powered bubble, reminiscent of a motorcycle sidecar.

The ScienceWorks Museum is in its third year of hosting the event, and ScienceWorks Executive Director Mark DiRienzo believes it is a positive situation for both parties.

"We love to collaborate with the Rogue Valley group," DiRienzo said, "They are very organized and professional. The event is about the education, not the selling of stuff."

DiRienzo offered his definition of sustainability as a question:

"Are we able to sustain what we're doing for the future and apply it to our daily life?" DiRienzo said. "It's not about the definition, it's about the question."

Throughout the day, DJ Jahfirm spun 'positive, eco-friendly, eco-centered music' in honor of Mother Earth in between sets. On his musical choices, Jahfirm explained: "All of the songs have an Earth theme," he said. "They are empowering songs giving suggestions on what to do."

On sustainability, Jahfirm said, "It is a direction you move, not a destination, nobody can live completely sustainable. What goes in must come out."

At the main entrance, the Caterpillar greeted attendees. The "big green science machine" is part of Pacifica, a nonprofit based in Williams which "crawls" to elementary schools throughout Jackson and Josephine counties, teaching science, nature and horticulture.

"The cool thing is that we have a different theme each year," said Pacifica Director Vanessa Martinez. "This year's theme is 'our changing world.'"

The "Caterpillar" trailer contained hands-on displays on endangered species, alternative energy, recycling and eating locally.

On sustainability, Martinez offered, "It's about being able to live in a way that we are working with our planet Earth in a positive way."

A highlight of the day was the third annual Art Now "Trashion Show," a trash-meets-fashion pageant hosted by Art Now President and Earth Day emcee, Elib Crist-Dwyer.

According to Crist-Dwyer, sustainability is "living within your means, consuming what you need to get by and not anything more than that."

Among the pageant winners were: Most artistic for Aubin Heglie's "queen of hearts," a mismatched cord skirt with feed sack base and corset decorated with playing cards; older contestant for Lisa Woolf's "wild about bubbles," a bubble wrap skirt with a zebra striped plastic bag top; and junior prize for Jack Murphy's "Spartan Earthwarrior."

Woolf, an employee at the Ashland Food Co-op, said sustainability is "Self-sufficiency and zero waste, everyone working together to create a more environmentally minded community."

The event, made possible by the approximately 100 volunteers, many of whom were Jackson County Master Recyclers and from area youth groups, strived to be the first zero waste event in the region, where all trash generated would be recycled on station.

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