Asheville Earth Day celebrates sustainability and optimism
“I think what’s really cool about Earth Day is that it can provide this umbrella for all the nonprofits in Asheville to come together,” says Ben Colvin, development director for Wild South, the nonprofit host of Asheville Earth Day. That daylong outdoor festival returns to Lexington Avenue on Saturday, April 19. The fun-for-all-ages gathering includes a kids village, local crafts, an educational eco village from local and national nonprofit groups and bands performing. LEAF in Schools and Streets performers kick off the festivities at 12:30 p.m.
“If there were ever a time for everyone to work together, it’s Earth Day,” says Colvin. “From environmental groups, yoga studios, Animal Compassion Network and Brother Wolf … the whole spectrum of nonprofits here in Asheville has a connection to Earth Day. It’s not just environmental groups.”
He continues, “Every [downtown] festival has its own focus, its own theme, but what I think is unique about Earth Day is that not only is it free, but it’s nonintimidating.” Want to learn about opportunities to help the planet? “I think it’s a really positive place to come down and get involved,” says Colvin.
Asheville Earth Day’s soundtrack is provided by a diverse lineup with performances from bluegrass band Sanctum Sully, New Orleans funk outfit Dirty Dozen Brass Band, regional Americana act Acoustic Syndicate, Bela Fleck tribute Blu-Bop and the Jerry Garcia Band Cover Band. “It’s a pretty big lineup this year,” says Colvin. “It’s probably the biggest we’ve ever had.”
Jay Franck, songwriter, mandolin player and vocalist for Sanctum Sully, agrees. “I love the sense of community these types of events bring out of Asheville,” he says. “We get to enjoy our town and each other with good food and good music. The entire lineup of music this year is fantastic, so I look forward to hearing the other bands.”
Speaking of banding together, all 12 nonprofits involved in the festival plan to collectively urge the city of Asheville to reduce waste by banning plastic bottles and bags.
“Asheville GreenWorks has been working on this for a while,” Colvin says. “And though City Council is hesitant to officially seek a ban, we can stand together to show a big vocal and visual backing of support. We all see plastic grocery bags trashing our rivers, streams, roads and neighborhoods, affecting our health and the health of the community, so this is a great thing.” He says the nonprofit groups are working on a “visual puzzle” design to stand together as a single voice onstage and deliver their message.
So yes, there will be eco talk, but count on an optimistic tone. “A lot of times you’ll hear environmental speakers stand up and give you the gloom and doom, and that’s not really what Earth Day is about,” Colvin says. “It’s about celebrating the place where we are. We talk about those things that we’re fighting for, but we’re really there to celebrate where we live and why we take care of this place.”
The Earth Day festivities are bookended by two major volunteer cleanups sponsored by Sierra Nevada Brewing and Twin Leaf Brewery as part of a 10-day Earth Week observance. “It’s turned into this long week instead of one day of celebration,” Colvin says. “We still want to celebrate that day, but we want to give opportunity — ample opportunity — for people to act in service of this place rather than just show up and party.”
Sierra Nevada hosted a river cleanup on Saturday, April 12, to kick off the Earth Week festivities. There, representatives teamed up with Asheville GreenWorks and led volunteers in cleaning up the French Broad River and Hominy Creek. Then, on Tuesday, April 22, Twin Leaf Brewery is sponsoring the South Slope and Save the Town Branch cleanup. That endeavor begins and ends at the brewery’s Coxe Avenue location. Asheville GreenWorks will again be on hand to provide gear to volunteers.
In the spirit of cooperation, all of the nonprofits at Asheville Earth Day have pledged support and participation in the cleanups, so large turnouts are expected, Colvin says. “Having an audience of 8,000 people, the possibilities are endless with what we can do,” he adds. “It may not always change something, but it makes a pretty big statement.”
All five Sanctum Sully members love to get outside and enjoy nature, so environmental protection is important to the band, says Franck. “This is an event that we can proudly stand behind, and we’re happy to be a part of it.”
All profits from Asheville Earth Day go to Wild South.
WHAT: Asheville Earth Day, avlearthday.org
WHERE: Lexington Avenue between Hiawasee Street and I-240
WHEN: Saturday, April 19, from noon-10 p.m. Free.