Let us now praise earthly things

‘Tis the season once again to officially show the love and respect for Mother Earth that we all-too-often forget about, the rest of the year. Here are just a few of the ways western North Carolinians can celebrate the 28th annual Earth Day (which technically falls on April 22):

• EarthStage Productions provides the city of Asheville’s official Earth Day entertainment with a performance of Back to Balance, an eco-drama starring “Kudzu”(Coco Palmer), a vine-enshrined character who travels through time and history exploring the interactions between humans and the natural world. EarthStage is a nonprofit corporation — founded by Mort Jonas in 1993 — which stages outdoor dramas that encourage appreciation and preservation of our environment and national heritage. Conceived in Miami (and now based in Asheville), EarthStage seeks to break down preconceived attitudes using theater and music. “When people are being entertained, they often drop much of their resistance to new ideas,” Jonas reflects.

Asheville’s Braidstream (featuring Allyson Gore on harp; Jeff Johnson on guitar; Rita Hayes on flute, vocals and hammered dulcimer; Danny Ellis on keyboards and vocals; Ron Clearfield on cello; and David Cohen on percussion), renowned in our area for its graceful blend of classical, jazz, Celtic and New Age sounds, will provide original music for Back to Balance, in addition to a 45-minute performance just before the play.

Tickets for this special Earth Day celebration, which gets under way at 8 p.m. on Friday, April 17 at the Diana Wortham Theatre, are $12 and can be purchased at the box office, at Malaprop’s (55 Haywood St.), at the French Broad Food Co-op (90 Biltmore Ave.) or by calling 257-4508. (Back to Balance will also be staged at Warren Wilson College’s Kittredge Auditorium on Tuesday, April 21 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10. Call 298-3325, ext. 272, for info.)

• Warren Wilson College sponsors an entire week of Earth Day festivities, running April 18-25. Highlights include: The Junk-A-Delic Orchestra, performing at the Kittredge Amphitheater at 8 p.m. on April 18 (call 298-3325, ext. 272, for more info); the RiverLink/Earth Fare-sponsored French Broad River Cleanup on Sunday, April 19, which gets under way at 2 p.m. at French Broad River Park and winds down at 4:30 with free food from Earth Fare and live music (call RiverLink at 252-8474 for more info); a spring wildflower walk at the North Carolina Arboretum, 1-5 p.m. on April 19 (call 665-2492 for more info); a Renew America national town meeting with the theme “Global Warming, Local Solutions,” presented in conjunction with the Land-of-Sky Regional Council, on April 22 (call 251-6622 for location and more info); and “Music in Nature,” a multimedia concert by internationally celebrated Celtic and folk guitarist (and former National Geographic photographer) at Kittredge Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, April 24 (call 298-3325 for more info).

• Gorgeous Chimney Rock Park presents its sixth annual Earth Day Celebration on the Park Meadows, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, April 25 and 26. The park’s host of Earth-friendly activities includes: hammered-dulcimer music by John Mason; traditional bluegrass and gospel by Ruff N’ Rocky; a petting zoo; wandering llamas; a coloring contest for the kids, sponsored by Mistic Rain Forest Nectars; an educational presentation by the Carolina Raptor Center’s Birds of Prey program; and much more. On April 25, park naturalist Clint Calhoun will lead a wildflower walk along the park’s trails, beginning at 10 a.m., followed by a slide presentation at 2 p.m. in the park’s Nature Center. At 1 p.m., the Bountiful Earth Picnic Competition swings into full gear, with groups of up to eight people presenting their version of the ideal environmentally-friendly picnic. Prizes include a private picnic for eight people (catered by Earth Fare chef Jeff Ballard) on top of Chimney Rock. On April 26, park ornithologist Simon Thompson will lead a bird walk at 9 a.m., followed by a slide presentation at 2 p.m. on peregrine falcons and other birds that live at Chimney Rock. Call the park at 625-9611 or (800) 277-9611, or visit the Chimney Rock Park Web site at: www.chimneyrockpark.com, for complete info on all events and to preregister for the picnic competition (the $25 entry fee must be received by April 22).

• A short drive westward to Sylva brings you Greening Up the Mountains — three simultaneous Earth Day festivals in one, all centered downtown. The Mountain Life Celebration, organized by the Spirit of Appalachia, begins with a 10 a.m. parade on Sylva’s Main Street and features arts, crafts, baked and canned goods, a recycling yard sale, hayrides and much more. The Celebration of Earth Day, organized by the Tuckaseegee Community Alliance, offers the music of Billy Jonas, the Queen Family, Pirates of the Tuckaseegee and The Take Two Duo, plus a variety of environmental talks and exhibits, and a creative recycling contest. The Nature of Sylva, organized by Sylva Partners in Renewal, features a series of nature walks and talks on everything from birds and wildflowers to nature photography and astronomy. Call Sylva Partners in Renewal at (828) 586-1577 for complete info on Greening Up the Mountains.

• The sweet sounds of mountain rock favorites Jupiter Coyote will ring through the Brevard hills as the band returns to its roots (several members have ties to Brevard College) for a special Earth Day benefit festival at the Brevard Music Center’s Straus Auditorium on April 19. Nikki Talley and the Hobarts, Formerly Dorian Grey and Sister Moon will also play the festival, which benefits the Straus Park Environmental Scholarship Fund. Doors open at noon, rain or shine. Tickets ($10) can be purchased at King’s Creek Books on the Brevard College campus, Backcountry Outdoors in Pisgah Forest, Headwaters Outfitters in Rosman, Essence of Thyme in downtown Brevard, or through the Brevard Area Chamber of Commerce. Call Curt Crowhurst at (828) 883-8292, ext. 2290 for more info.

•Asheville’s Francine Delany New School for Children (the only charter school in town), in conjunction with Earth Fare, will celebrate Earth Day by helping beautify the city: Students, parents and volunteers will plant dozens of seedling red buds and white oaks near the school in west Asheville. Mayor Leni Sitnick kicks off the event (on Wednesday, April 22, beginning at 11 a.m.) by planting a hardwood tree — donated by Earth Fare — on the school grounds. If you’d like to volunteer for this day of earth adornment, meet at the school (119 Brevard Road) at 9 a.m., armed with a shovel and plenty of Earth Day spirit. (As an added incentive, Earth Fare will provide refreshments.)

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