While the Earth is actually closer to 4.5 billion years old, Earth Day was only celebrated for the 36th straight year this past weekend, as revelers gathered downtown to celebrate all things organic, solar-powered and eco-friendly.
Santa Barbara’s Earth Day celebration was held in the sunken gardens behind the Santa Barbara County Courthouse on Saturday and was hosted by the nonprofit Community Environmental Council. The event lasted from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and drew an estimated 8,000 Earth-conscious visitors. The day’s theme, “Green Power to the People,” emphasized reducing the world’s reliance on fossil fuels. Attendees relaxed on the grass, enjoyed organic foods, and visited over 130 booths that provided education about issues such as environmental protection, solar energy, organic food, pet care, population growth and pollution.
Sanandra Black, who was selling organic oils for the fifth year in a row at the Earth Day celebration, said she enjoys being around others who are environmentally aware.
“I like to be around other people that are [environmentally] conscious and like-minded,” she said. “The people are great and friendly.”
Many vendors sold environmental T-shirts, jewelry, plants and herbal skin care products. Others promoted businesses that installed solar energy systems or offered other environmentally friendly services. Booths included supporters of conscientious objectors like the American Civil Liberties Union and the Democratic Women of Santa Barbara County.
The event also featured a show of hybrid and solar-powered cars, as well as a free bicycle checkup station for those who biked to the festival. Several bikes were raffled and given away to festival attendees, including one that was electricity-powered and valued at $1,000.
Freshman Santa Barbara City College student and Earth Day volunteer Randy Harington said celebrating Earth Day helps him put the issues facing the planet into perspective.
“It’s to raise the awareness of people in the community and to understand and appreciate the world we live in,” Harington said.
On a solar-powered stage, several musical acts performed, including musical theater group Dancing Drum, which provided interactive, family-oriented entertainment. The drum show began at 11 a.m. with an Earth Day rap, and included storytelling, music and dancing.
A children’s activity area featured an “Art From Scrap” booth where kids could make wearable, recycled fashions. Other booths included painting, seed planting, rubbing sticks together to make fire and “eroding” a sand model with squirt bottles.
The Tobacco Prevention Coalition was present to remind visitors of the environmentally detrimental effects of cigarettes. Jayne Brechwald, the executive director of the American Lung Association of Santa Barbara County, said the group attended the day’s festivities to help inform residents about lesser-known pollutants.
“We’re here to educate people that butts are litter too,” Brechwald said. “Earth Day is to increase awareness about how we can save our earth from pollution… and to promote healthful living.”
Santa Barbara local Robbin Papalucas said she has been coming to the festival for many years to enjoy the atmosphere.
“It’s important that we educate people who are open and willing to hear our message,” she said. “It’s all about having an open and caring heart… and the children have a wonderful time here.”