Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

St. Louis Earth Day Festival Expands to Two Days of Food, Fun and Education

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

St. Louis Earth Day Festival Expands to Two Days of Food, Fun and Education

Article excerpt

How do you fit dance troupes, yoga sessions, gardening classes, pet adoption, fashion shows and a costumed "species" parade into just one day?

If you're the St. Louis Earth Day Festival, you don't.

This weekend, the 28th-annual event will technically become the Earth Days festival to fully accommodate the growing selection of educational activities, live entertainment, local vendors and nonprofit partnerships that will sprawl across the Muny grounds in Forest Park on Saturday and Sunday.

Plus, "having two days spreads the risk of rain out," says executive director Jen Myerscough, only half joking. "Last year, 62,000 people showed up. More people keep coming every year."

Those people come despite or perhaps because of a distinct lack of traditional festival trappings: no Ferris wheels, no funnel cakes, no past-their-prime hair bands touring the carnival circuit.

"We have music and food, but we try to hold ourselves to a higher standard," Myerscough says. "We use local acts performing original songs." The Gaslight Squares, Maness Brothers and Gentlemen of Vision step team are among the performers.

The festival asks food vendors to include vegetarian or vegan choices in their locally sourced offerings. Food containers must be compostable or recyclable. Festival organizers discourage individually packaged condiments and favor foods that don't require utensils to eat.

"Vendors come to a meeting where we ask, 'What is your business about? Why do you want to come to the festival? What are you giving away?'" Myerscough says. "They say, 'Wow, you guys are picky!'"

They have to be picky to get as close as possible to their goal of "zero waste." In the past few years, 93 percent of the weight of the waste generated at the festival has been reusable, recyclable or compostable.

Even fairgoers are asked to do their part. Visitors can earn a prize in the Earth Day Challenge if they accomplish two of three things: Bring a reusable water bottle, carry a reusable bag for their festival swag or arrive via a "low-impact" method on foot, by bicycle, on public transportation or by carpooling. …

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