What will you pledge to do for the Earth this year?
That’s the question Irene Morris, event coordinator for the U.S. Forest Service, will be asking attendees at this year’s Earth Day festival on Saturday. It’s the same question she’s asked for the last five year because, to her, every little bit counts. Whether it’s as simple as pledging to remember those reusable bags when you head to the grocery store, or as dedicated to switching to cloth diapers, the results are certainly worth the effort.
But there will be much more than pledging to take care of Mother Nature at this year’s festival, Morris said.
The event, which kicks off at 11 a.m. and lasts until 3 p.m., will feature 21 groups presenting educational material and entertainment, and offering activities for all ages. This year’s theme hinges on the USFS’ year-long celebration of the International Year of Forests, which for Alaska includes events throughout the year planned in honor of the state’s expansive national forests. Saturday’s activities will range from scavenger hunts and bird walks to dance performances and live music. Presenting the opening ceremonies will be Sen. Dennis Egan, pending his ability to break away from legislative duties, said Morris. Cy Peck will lead the blessing and at noon The Heartstrings, a local violin group, will kick of the live music.
This year marks the sixth year the U.S. Forest Service has presented the festival in conjunction with the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska.
Morris, a long-time Juneauite, said she sees the impact the festival has on the youth of the community.
“For many kids, this may just be their first Earth Day,” she said. “That means they are growing up having the day be a part of their life. (It’s meaningful because) it hasn’t always been that way.”
Morris remembers when the first Earth Day was held over 40 years ago. Now, she said, children are thinking carefully about how human choices impact our planet at a young age. Three youth groups will have booths at the event; two from the high schools and one from Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School
Each year the event grows, Morris said. This year’s participant list tops out at 21, the largest it’s ever been.
“Each group just wants to get their message out and be a part of Earth Day,” she said. “It’s a celebration and also an educational opportunity.”
Aside from the Audubon Tracks and Signs walk happening outside, Morris said most of the action will be inside the visitor center. The event is free and open to the public. For those who can’t attend, Morris recommended going online to earthday.org to make a “green” pledge. To date, she said, over 100,000 pledges have been made from individuals around the nation to help save the planet.