Celebrating 10 years of Cedar Rapids EcoFest

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EcoFest 2019

Cedar Rapids New Bohemia District — Saturday, April 20 at 10 a.m.

Attendees enjoy the entertainment at EcoFest 2018. — courtesy of EcoFest

Saturday, April 20, Cedar Rapids’ EcoFest will be celebrating its 10th year of sharing eco-friendly festivities, educational activities and strategies for Eastern Iowa residents to live more earth-conscious lives.

As the weather warms up and Earth Day approaches, many Iowans will be emerging from winter hibernation, re-engaging with the rich landscapes and vibrant communities around them. However, the winter melt reveals both new grass and the previous month’s litter, reminding Iowans of how much work must be done to care for the ecosystem around us. While current headlines on the state of our planet cannot be denied, conservation-minded groups have existed since the mid-19th century, and the movement keeps growing.

“EcoFest was born from a desire by several of the local environmental groups to have one, larger Earth Day event rather than a bunch of little ones where we were really just reaching our own members (preaching to the choir).” said EcoFest board member Mike Wyrick in an email.

“That fall, the [Quad Cities] event’s organizer came over and did a presentation to the Corridor Conservation Coalition, an umbrella group of all the green groups in the Cedar Rapids area, and she talked us through what she had learned in her five years of running her QC event,” Wyrick continued.

“It took us another year to get our event put together … The first year our event was called the Corridor Earth Day Celebration. We discovered that the New Bo District folks were planning their own Earth Day event, which they were calling the New Bo Eco-Arts Fest … It was the merging of those two events that eventually morphed into EcoFest.”

NewBo City Market welcomes the eco-conscious at EcoFest 2018. — courtesy of EcoFest

Since the first event, EcoFest has hosted tree walks; live programs sharing information on Iowa’s diverse raptor population; and a wide variety of live music. This year, updated versions of the live raptor demonstrations and EcoFest Art Show will take place, as well as a demonstration from Stephanie Arne, wildlife presenter and current host of the Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. Arne will share how she became interested in the environment and her journey to getting on the show.

With event sponsorships from General Mills, the City of Cedar Rapids and a variety of local businesses, the community roots run deep in the project. The EcoFest Art show, one of the longest-standing events, will once again take place in its original location in the Cherry Building.

“The first show was held in the then-recently reopened Cherry Building. It was set up in an unfinished suite which hadn’t yet been wired or had lighting installed. It had an entire row of windows on the outside wall which gave us light at least early in the day. The show fazed out after a couple of years, but was reinstated this year. We’re back in the Cherry Building but in the commons gallery, which was set up to allow for rotating art installations.” said John Schwartzkpof, Cedar Rapids woodworking artist and member of the EcoFest board.

View from the stage at EcoFest 2018. — courtesy of EcoFest

“This year’s EcoFest Art Show, instead of an ad-hoc assembly of participants, will be a mix of adults, professional artists and students from the Eastern Iowa Arts Academy. It will still be a display of artwork produced from recycled, repurposed and sustainably sourced materials.” Schwartzkpof continued.

The events are concentrated to the New Bohemia district of Cedar Rapids, stretching from 5th Street to 11th Street and 3rd Avenue.

Amid the food, festivities and music, EcoFest still has one main goal: to help teach Iowans in the Cedar Rapids and beyond ways to live more earth-conscious lives — even if the changes are small.

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“Of course, everyone has heard about reduce, reuse, recycle,” Gail Barels, Conservation Education Specialist for Linn County Conservation, said in an email. “We often forget that first word — reduce. Reduce the amount of plastic in our lives. Opt for non-plastic containers, use paper or reusable straws and ask for take-out foods in paper or cardboard containers … you can take small steps to begin. Make sure you recycle all the products you can, purchase reusable bags for all your shopping, try to reduce your use of one-use items and talk to businesses about your desire to not have to use plastic products.”

For more information on how to live a more eco-conscious life, and to absorb some of the abundant art, music and other festivities, visit the NewBo area Saturday, April 20 from 10-4 for some “good, green fun.”

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