Crowds of Conway residents gathered for the city’s 6th Annual EcoFest that was held Saturday, September 13 at Laurel Park from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
EcoFest began in 2009 as an independent body that partnered with the City of Conway through the mutual goal of employing environmental education in a way that is interactive and practical, allowing visitors to connect current and prominent environmental issues with their daily lives. Matching with this year’s theme, Cultivating Curiosity!, the festival functioned as a place for interest in the natural world to be ignited and revived.
EcoFest 2014’s “ecotainment” was made up of a variety of events from live musical performances by local bands such as The Whole Famn Damily and The Boomers, a magic and juggling show presented by Blayk Pucket, an aquarium from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, and of course, organic food vendors from the Conway Locally Grown farmers’ market.
Businesses and professional organizations such as the U.S. Green Building Council, Metroplan, The Locals, and Sierra Club had featured sessions on new eco-friendly home and transportation plans, cooking demonstrations, and the like, apprising current ecological situations and the actions taken to resolve them.
Mayor Townsell gave a speech on citizens’ responsibility to encourage a sustainable lifestyle and to do our part in minimizing harmful effects on the environment.
Informational booths from a team of UCA environmentally-aligned RSOs lined the park, including the Environmental Alliance, Biology Club, the UCA chapter of the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences, and many others.
“This year, the Society of Physics Students at UCA demonstrated how solar energy could be incorporated into circuits to make things move, light up, and make noise,” said Max Milan, the SPS president. “Our demos attracted people of all ages, and increased awareness of the applicability of alternative energy in a fun-filled, hands-on experience.”
Senior Anna Junkans, President of the Student Dietetic Association, said that EcoFest gave its members the opening to share nutritional facts with the community by catering to the busy lives of the families and individuals with healthy on-the-go snacks. “The kids loved making their own trail mix from the healthy ingredients that we provided. Parents, teens, and the elderly greatly appreciated the easy-to-make recipes and snacking tips shared by SDA members. The people who stopped by the SDA booth were also fascinated by the many alternatives to using ranch as a dip-it; for example, dipping graham crackers in cinnamon applesauce and dipping pretzels in mustard. Hula-hoops gave the kids a fun way to expand their energy and showed them that exercising, in conjunction with good nutrition, can be fun!” she said.
When asked if UCA hosted similar events to EcoFest, geography professor Dr. Jerry Reynolds responded, “In previous years, the Environmental Alliance and other environmentally related student organizations, such as the Biology Club and Conway Advocates for Bicycling, have participated in environmental education displays on or around Earth Day in front of the UCA Student Center.”
Reynolds was scheduled for his fourth consecutive year to be a presenter of the Greenwashing exhibit, providing information on college degrees and careers in the environmental sector, but due to the inability to update materials could not participate. He stated that although no longer the EA’s advisor, he strongly supports “any efforts to increase UCA staff, student, and faculty awareness of environmental issues, whether local, regional, national, or global.”
Other notable public figures that made an appearance included State Representative David Meeks and Tyler Pearson, an analyst for Heifer International, both of whom additionally showed great support for the festival.
“The turnout was fantastic despite the overcast and colder weather,” sophomore Isabelle Ragni said. “Families and pets were welcome and I think everyone learned a lot, as well as had a blast!”