Event draws crowds to play, create and learn about going green
Apr. 21, 2013 @ 08:27 PM

The Durham Earth Day Festival had all the elements of a successful outdoor event for the public: music, food trucks, kids happily making things, free stuff at information tables, and great weather.

NBC-17 meteorologist Wes Hohenstein hosted the event Sunday afternoon in Durham Central Park and noted the sunny forecast all day rather than the cold and rainy event last year.

It was the first Durham Earth Day Festival for Jill Hernandez, who was watching her daughter Sophia Holste, 9, hula hoop. Sophia had her face painted like a butterfly.

“We’re always looking for festivals and events, and Durham’s such a great town we wanted to come and check it out,” Hernandez said. She said she thought the festival was wonderful, though she would have liked to see a few more vendors.

“It’s fun, you know, just to see people out and to promote a more earth-friendly environment,” Hernandez said.

There were about half a dozen food trucks parked on the closed block of Foster Street, and community groups and vendors under the Farmers’ Market pavilion. One area that stayed busy all afternoon long was the Home Depot craft tent, where children could take hammer to nail to create wooden tool boxes, cars, trucks and bird feeders.

Little Jonathan Gbassagee, 2, had donned an orange Home Depot apron with pockets holding his new crafts. His mom Aisha Gbassagee said that she thought the festival was a wonderful event with lots of interactive things for kids to do.

“I like the music, the dancing, lots of information. It’s a nice thing for a Sunday, to do something outside that’s family-oriented,” she said. Her daughter Tehya Greene, 11, liked seeing animals and checking out snakes and centipedes at one of the exhibitors.

Gbassagee’s brother, Javier Parker, a senior at Jordan High School, said it was “a wonderful day for friends and family to come out and meet at the festival, learn about different stuff, and for everybody to get along.”

Parker said that he recycles at home and at school, and has planted trees at school. Tehya noted that her school, Rogers-Herr Middle, has a gardening club, too.

Under the pavilion, volunteers with Vegan Carolina handed out information about compassionate eating choices and gave away samples of vegan barbecue chicken made from soy patties. Cherry Hitt said people had been trying samples and getting recipes. Being vegan has a huge impact on Earth, she said, including not eating animals, being more directly in the food chain and reducing carbon emissions.

“To me, it’s about treating animals well – not contributing to an industry that’s causing more destruction to our environment,” Hitt said.

The City of Durham Water Management Department tent on the open space by pavilion had a crowded stream of visitors gathering free key chains, pens, pencils, erasers and grease containers as they learned about water and sewer issues. The grease containers held sturdy bags to collect household grease rather than putting it down the drain.

Mike Fike, who works in the regulatory compliance division of Water Management, said people were excited to have the grease containers, called fat trappers, so they wouldn’t contribute to letting grease into the sewer system.

“A big myth is that grease with hot water will flush down the system,” Fike said. “It’s like fried food clogs arteries up – the same principle. Just like an artery can stop up, a sewer system can overflow.”

It’s not just a city pipes problem, Fike said. Cooking fat can back up in homes, too, and sometime erupt. Durhamites heeded his words. Later in the afternoon, the supply of giveaway fat trappers had all been taken.

At the other end of the tent, Al Nelson, conservation coordinator for Water Management, said he had sold quite a few high-efficiency shower heads and promoted rain barrels other water conservation methods. Durham also has a high-efficiency toilet rebate credit program.

“The Triangle is very progressive when it comes to conservation and efficiency,” Nelson said.

Across Foster Street, in the literally greener area, children ran freely on the grassy field, played on the giant turtle and cardinal statues near the bridge over a small creek and watched the big kids skateboard at the Durham Skate Park.

Durham Earth Day was sponsored by Durham Parks and Recreation and Keep Durham Beautiful.