Earthy celebrations

In the Asheville area, Earth Day isn’t just a one-day affair. The 39-year-old tradition falls on Wednesday, April 22, this year, but related events start this weekend and continue for more than a week, promising a bounty of workshops, presentations, kids’ stuff, enviro tips and more.

The big picture: Second-grader Noah Sulzman was the grand prize winner in the pre-K through 5th grade division of RiverLink’s 2009 Earth Day art contest.

Want to learn how to build your own rain barrel? Roll up your sleeves at RiverLink’s April 22 event at the Asheville Outdoor Center (and stick around afterward to volunteer for a river cleanup). Want to check out some hybrid or alternative-fuel vehicles, or meet Steve Smith, one of our region’s leading clean-energy advocates? Attend the Earth Day Energy Expo in Henderson County. Or if you’d rather view a few birds of prey close up, scoot over to the Blue Ridge Parkway’s Asheville Visitor Center.

And for all-around Earth Day activities, check out the big events happening in Asheville: the Earth Day Asheville Celebration Concert (April 18) and the Greenlife Asheville Earth Day event (April 22). For more information on these events, see “Shakin’ it on Down for Earth Day” elsewhere in this special section. And for more event listings, check out our Eco Calendar. Meanwhile, here’s the scoop on a handful of standout happenings.

An herbal beginning Friday through Sunday, April 17-19, Warren Wilson College

The college gets the jump on Earth Day with “Herbal Medicine: Balancing Environmental Stewardship, Science and Traditional Wisdom.” The three-day symposium will focus on the connections linking environmental awareness, green-business initiatives, science and culture. Key speakers include renowned ethnobotanist James Duke (author of The Green Pharmacy) and Brazilian ethnopharmacologist Terezhina de Jesus Soares Dos Santos (aka Teka). The event will feature workshops, classes, herb walks and presentations, such as one by Bent Creek Institute representatives who will share details about the medicinal research being done in Western North Carolina. Organizers call it “a weekend of collaboration, brainstorming, environmental advocacy, education and celebration.” It’s $65 for the whole weekend, $45 for Saturday only. Meals are available on campus at additional cost. To register, e-mail, or call 771-5848. For more information, visit

Shakin’ it on Down for Earth Day

by Rebecca Sulock

Ashevilleans will have two chances to dance the Earth Day (or night) away. A pair of local celebrations will be heavy on the entertainment.

Laura Reed and Deep Pocket are part of the free Earth Day Asheville show at Martin Luther King Park.

On Saturday, April 18, a free, all-day event at Martin Luther King Jr. Park will boast a bigtime music lineup and an Eco-Village featuring info and fun from lots of local nonprofits. And on Wednesday, April 22, get your boogie on at The Orange Peel in a benefit for Asheville GreenWorks (formerly known as Quality Forward), the local Keep America Beautiful affiliate.

The organizers didn’t put a lot into cooking up catchy names (the MLK Park event is called Asheville Earth Day; the Orange Peel event is called Earth Day Asheville), but they did get creative with the entertainment. Read on to learn more about your green celebration options.

We’re all part of this Tiny Universe

For an Earth Day-stravaganza, head to MLK Park in downtown Asheville Saturday, April 18, for music, fun stuff for kids, info from local eco-oriented nonprofits, food and more. The 2009 Asheville Earth Day Celebration is free.

The greenest bet? Ride your bike and park it at the bike corral; there’ll be prizes for those who opt to limit their carbon footprint. Oh, and fill your backpack with old cell-phone batteries and empty plastic bottles: At the Eco-Village, you can recycle the former and build sculptures from the latter.

Wear your dancin’ shoes, because this is a lineup that won’t let you sit still. Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe headlines. A former staple of the funk/jam circuit, the band has stopped in Asheville many a time but hasn’t played together lately—don’t miss ‘em. Asheville/Atlanta-based Laura Reed and Deep Pocket know how to get a crowd going. Also look for Sol Driven Train, a folk/rock/reggae/bluegrass (!) act that’s been circling through Asheville with frequency lately, and local faves High Windy and Jen and the Juice.

Swing the Earth Day night away when Blue Heaven takes the Orange Peel stage at the Asheville Greenworks benefit.

And it’s free … a welcome break in tough times. As organizer Bob Robertson explains, folks need to get down now more than ever.

“Everybody needs to dance and shake that stuff out; it’s hard when you can’t afford to do it,” says Robertson of Mountain Roots Management. He and Greenlife Grocery have been collaborating recently on staging free events for the city, including a downtown concert by Keller Williams (and other acts) last fall. Look for more free music, says Robertson—and thank Greenlife Grocery.

What else to know? Earth Day Asheville runs from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. The family-friendly bash will include a whole Kids Universe with arts, crafts, face painting and storytelling by Laura “Lulu” Edmonds.

It’s also a green event with a cause: Foothills Brewing will donate the proceeds from beer sales to LEAF’s Schools and Streets program, which brings music and the arts to underprivileged children.

To learn more, go to

Fill the tank with Bayou Diesel

For an evening of zydeco and swing dancing, hoof it on over to The Orange Peel on Wednesday, April 22. Local dance bands Bayou Diesel (high-octane Cajun and zydeco) and the swing-ensemble Blue Heaven will play from 7 to 11 p.m.

Ticket sales ($10; free for kids under 12, maximum two per adult) will benefit Asheville GreenWorks’ earth-friendly projects. The group has planted thousands of trees, cleaned up neighborhoods and streams, painted over graffiti, promoted recycling and more, but there’s plenty more to do. Come help support their efforts and have a great time doing it.

National Park Week meets Earth Day Saturday, April 18, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center

Did you know that the Parkway Visitor Center in Asheville is a LEED-certified building? The gold-level certification offered by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a project of the U.S. Green Building Council, recognizes the new structure’s exceptional energy efficiency. Enviro-friendly features include radiant floor heat, a green roof that’s seeded with drought-tolerant native plants, a daylight-harvesting design that reduces electric-lighting loads by 78 percent, and passive-solar walls on the building’s south side that absorb solar heat and release it into the interior via a system of vents.

For Earth Day—and as a jump-start for National Park Week—the center is offering several activities. The celebration gets going at 10 a.m. with a presentation titled “Green Gardening Practices,” followed by the Junior Appalachian String Band at 11 a.m., “Live Birds of Prey” at 1 p.m., and a 2 p.m. book signing with Backroads of North Carolina author/photographer Kevin Adams. And check out the 22-foot-long I-Wall—an interactive map of the entire Parkway. For more info, call 298-5330. The center is located about one mile south of the Parkway’s intersection with U.S. 70 (East Tunnel Road).

Cue up the bluegrass and more Saturday, April 18, Earth Fare (noon to 3 p.m. south Asheville; 1 to 4 p.m. Westgate)

This local purveyor of organic foods and products plans to honor Earth Day with barbecue, bluegrass and a clothing drive. Plates of pulled pork, potato salad and Carolina coleslaw will be offered for $5.99 (all-veggie plates will also be available), with 20 percent of the proceeds benefiting RiverLink and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. The Knitty Naughty Band will play old-time tunes at the south Asheville store, and Sherri Lynn and Mountain Friends will offer up bluegrass at the Westgate store. Both outlets will be accepting donations of men’s and women’s lightweight shirts and jackets for distribution to local shelters. Donors will receive a $5 coupon toward eco-friendly T-shirts being sold at the event by Green Tree Apparel. Noon to 3 p.m. at the South Asheville store; 1 to 4 p.m. at Westgate. For more information, call Janice Husk at 210-0100 (south Asheville) or Erica Fadely at 253-7656 (Westgate).

Arts, eats and good deeds Saturday, April 18, Hendersonville Community Co-op (11 a.m. to 6 p.m.)

Down the road in Hendersonville, a diverse array of kids’ activities, eco-living awareness, Southern comfort food and local music will be on offer. The Co-op’s Earth Day event will also feature local artisans, vendors and Blue Mountain Deli food. Local artist/teacher M. Rathsack will lead earth-friendly kids’ activities, and Highland Brewing will donate a portion of its earnings to the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy. Meanwhile, local groups will be spreading the word about what they do—and what you can do—in the name of environmental consciousness and social responsibility. For more info, call Gretchen Schott Cummins at 693-8557. The Co-op is located at 715 Old Spartanburg Highway in Hendersonville.

Sustainable living in WNC Sunday, April 19, Unity Center in Mills River (2 to 4 p.m.)

The folks at the Long Branch Environmental Education Center in northwest Buncombe County put their green ideas into action. Their 1,635-acre facility features five acres of small-scale organic gardens, crops, orchards and rainbow-trout aquaculture. There’s also a passive-solar office, conference center and staff residences, plus all-solar greenhouses, composting toilets and a 1918 farmhouse retrofitted for energy conservation.

Education is a key element of the nonprofit’s work, and for the Unity Center event, Long Branch Director Paul Gallimore will share his thoughts on sustainable living in WNC and give an overview of his book, Healing Appalachia: Sustainable Living Through Appropriate Technology. He’s also bringing plant and tree seedlings, such as heritage red raspberries, heirloom apple varieties, American chestnut back-crossed hybrids and blueberries; they’ll be available to reward those making a donation to Long Branch. For more information, visit, call 683-3662 or e-mail The Unity Center, where the event will be held, is at 2041 Old Fanning Bridge Road in Mills River.

A (solar) panel discussion Wednesday, April 22, Asheville YWCA (8 a.m.)

Start your Earth Day at the YWCA, which is celebrating the installation of 30 solar panels to heat the water in its pool, showers and kitchen. The new panels have already reduced the nonprofit’s natural-gas bill by 20 percent and will prevent approximately 18 tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere each year. The event is sponsored by Progress Energy. The YWCA is at 185 S. French Broad Ave. in Asheville.

Rain barrels galore Asheville Outdoor Center/Southern Waterways (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and Build It Naturally (10 a.m. to 6 p.m.)

If you need a rain barrel, take your pick: Like dueling banjos, two local nonprofits are offering them.

Asheville GreenWorks will be selling rain barrels and composters at the season opening of the French Broad Food Co-op’s tailgate market. The market is held next door to the co-op in the parking lot of Build It Naturally, 76 Biltmore Ave.

RiverLink’s rain barrels are across town on Amboy Road, but be prepared: This is a make-your-own deal. The nonprofit is sponsoring a working Earth Day that starts with a rain-barrel workshop (10 a.m. to noon), followed by a French Broad River cleanup (noon to 4 p.m.) and winding up with a watershed-education program (3 to 5 p.m.). Workshop space is limited to 15 people, but they’ll take home a rain barrel at a bargain price ($60 for materials; tools provided). For more info, contact RiverLink ( or 252-8474, ext. 118). The Asheville Outdoor Center is at 521 Amboy Road.

Revving up the green energy Saturday, April 25, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Blue Ridge Community College, Flat Rock

America needs a real debate about climate change, says Steve Smith, director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, and he’s tried to take it straight to Congress. Earlier this year, he appeared before a Senate subcommittee investigating last December’s coal-ash spill in Tennessee. The South’s culture of conservatism, argues Smith, has hampered substantive progress on climate change. And putting private utilities in charge of energy-efficiency initiatives (probably the least expensive way to cut carbon emissions), he declares, is “like going into McDonald’s and asking them not to sell hamburgers.”

Smith will be the keynote speaker for the Earth Day Energy Expo, presented by the Hendersonville-based Environmental & Conservation Organization at Blue Ridge Community College. The event’s theme is “Energy Fuels the Economy: Taking the Greener Path,” and a presentation by Vanir Energy will spotlight what it says will be the world’s largest solar installation, now under construction at the Fletcher Business Park in Henderson County.

The expo will also include children’s activities and a computer-recycling drop-off for Henderson County residents. Energy and air-quality projects by local students will be on display along with hybrid and alt-fuel vehicles, and ECO will offer workshops on practical solutions to home-energy issues. For more information, call ECO at 692-0385, or visit

Earth Day on the Commons Sunday, April 26, Cathedral of All Souls (12:30 to 4 p.m.)

In Asheville, Earth Week winds down with a Biltmore Village celebration at the Cathedral of All Souls, an Episcopal church. Activities include the Rev. Todd Donatelli’s “blessing of the bikes,” a kids’ bike rodeo hosted by Healthy Buncombe and the Blue Ridge Bicycle club, a plant sale by the Men’s Garden Club (“It’s time to plant foxgloves!” they proclaim), Carleton Burke and his birds of prey, music by the Evergreen School Marimba Band and others, and exhibitor booths galore (local farms, enviro groups, local governments and agencies, food vendors and more). For more info, call Leslie Huntley at 253-8678. The cathedral is at 9 Swan St. in Biltmore Village.

About Margaret Williams
Editor Margaret Williams first wrote for Xpress in 1994. An Alabama native, she has lived in Western North Carolina since 1987 and completed her Masters of Liberal Arts & Sciences from UNC-Asheville in 2016. Follow me @mvwilliams

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One thought on “Earthy celebrations

  1. Shine

    There will also be the following event:

    Title: Litany For home: An Earth Day Ritual

    Date: Wednesday April 22, 2009
    Time: 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm

    Location: Aston Park, Downtown Asheville

    Litany For home: An Earth Day Ritual will be held on Wed., 4/22,at 6:30 PM in Aston Park. A worshipful honoring of Earth Day, it includes the Elm Dance, songs and liturgy for the season. This event is free and open to the respectful public. For more information, call 230-5069 or info@…. Sponsored by Mother Grove.

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