“It’s the right thing at the right time. Everybody’s talking green,” says Lyndajoy Storer, resource-development director at local grassroots initiative Quality Forward. She’s referring to Quality Forward’s Earth Day Asheville, presented by Earth Fare—a community-oriented event slated for The Orange Peel next week.
In fact, “green” is such an of-the-moment buzzword that Earth Day almost manages to slip into clubs and events calendars without mention of its previous redheaded-stepchild status. But think about it: Past local Earth Day events have amounted to a few booths and family-friendly activities relegated to a corner of Pack Square. The not-quite holiday dates back to the early 1960s, when Sen. Gaylord Nelson coined the term. The first Earth Day took place in 1970, celebrating a dawning interest in eco-activism—and annual events ensued, with spikes of interest around 1990 (boosting recycling efforts worldwide) and 2000 (amid growing public awareness of environmental issues).
But not even those milestones were enough to take the local event from pamphlets and face painting to a full-on fashion, music and V.I.P-seating extravaganza.
“It’s like a train that took off,” Storer says.
Much of what’s behind the excitement of this year’s Earth Day celebration is the current green movement, a celebrity-fueled trend using pop culture to generate interest in environmental issues. When Quality Forward, with 35 years of environmental effort behind it, made the admirably smart decision to push Earth Day not through the usual channels but through cyberspace, people noticed.
The main focus of this year’s event is a fundraising concert slated for The Orange Peel. And, in the spirit of the grassroots movements that support Earth Day, the lineup was chosen by an online vote. By the March 9 deadline, 110 local bands had signed up on Quality Forward’s Web site, where fans could check out their sound clips and cast votes for favorite acts. The site attracted 11,000 hits and 4,000 votes by early April.
Local acts hoping to land a slot at the April 22 showcase included the well-known (Ménage, The Buckerettes, Pierce Edens and the Dirty Work, Ruby Slippers, Snake Oil Medicine Show, GFE) and the lesser-known (April Cope & Petalstorm, Josh Phillips Folk Festival, Queen Anne’s Revenge, Shapestatic, Jazz The Ripper, Atomic Sauce) and ran the gamut from rock and indie to jazz and bluegrass. Potentially, there could be something for every musical taste and demographic at the event. E-mail blasts from Quality Forward to the bands led to flurries of Web-based blogs and bulletins imploring fans to vote. The result: A wealth of free advertising.
But the excitement hardly ends with the musical selections. “A lot of companies want to be aligned with this,” Storer says, pointing out that Quality Forward hoped to land five sponsors but now has more than 30, many of which sought out the organization. Competitors Asheville Radio Group and Clear Channel Communications are coming together in sponsorship. Green-event planning company Seven-Star is donating staff and resources to recycle and compose waste from the show. Dozens of volunteers—more than half of whom had never before worked with Quality Forward—came out of the woodwork to lend their time and talents, and more than $20,000 in in-kind donations were pledged to the event.
Storer calls it all “magical.”
Like Earth Day celebrations of years past, this one comes with an educational component. Warren Wilson College has a PowerPoint presentation in the works; Quality Forward will help those interested sign up for membership or volunteer work. But those brochure-laden card tables are a thing of the past: This time, entertainment is front and center.
Along with the six audience-approved bands, local boutiques and designers are slated to send models down the runways in recycled and sustainable fashions. Spiritex and Poetic Justice by Marylou Marsh-Sanders, Sew Moe, Elliott Elephant, Rags Reborn Eco Chic Boutique, Little Eagle by Kaorico Ago, m. by Meredith Law, Frox by Roxanne Frue, Rachel Stak’s Red Moon Rising Studios, and River T-C are included in the lineup.
But even though Earth Day suggests a global outlook, Storer notes that this event is all about acting locally. “It’s that 100-miles thing,” she explains. “You try to do everything you can within 100 miles [of where you live]. Buy locally, produce locally.” In this case, that means music, fashion, food, beer, sponsors and, of course, fans.
Now, if someone could just generate a Web-based carpool signup for transportation to the show …
who: Earth Day Asheville
what: Earth-friendly projects fundraiser with local bands and fashions
where: Orange Peel
when: Tuesday, April 22. 7 p.m. ($10 general admission; $75 V.I.P. 255-5851)