Kent joins nation in Earth Day festivities

Jack Kopanski

The City of Kent hosted the 11th annual “Who’s Your Mama” Earth Day Fest presented by Standing Rock Cultural Arts Saturday.

The event closed Main Street between DePeyster and Water streets while people carried signs that read, “Don’t Be A Fossil Fool” and “Protect Our Great Lakes.”

Sixty-two-year-old Aurora-native John Flower remembers the inaugural Earth Day in 1970 and said events like this are key to the continuing education about Earth.

“A lot of people still are not educated as to the importance of Earth system studies,” Flower said. “There is environmental studies on-campus, but that doesn’t mean everyone is into environmental studies. It’s important (for) awareness-raising.”

Jeff Ingram, the executive director and co-founder of Standing Rock Cultural Arts, saw the event as a party to celebrate Earth Day. Starting as an environmental film festival, “Who’s Your Mama” quickly evolved into the block party-style event it is now.

“The first year, we didn’t block off the street. It was just inside the lobby of the Kent Stage,” Ingram said. “Then it grew into, ‘Let’s block off the street and see what happens.’ I know a lot of artist friends, and they thought, ‘Let’s get a parade going on.’ So that’s really been the focus of it for the past five-six years now.”

Ingram said the environment has played a big role in his life even from a young age, which has made him more passionate to host and take part in events like this.

“We’re celebrating protecting (the Earth),” Ingram said. “It builds a collective spirit. It’s not just one person, it’s all these different people. It all starts with one small seed and grows into a bigger force.”

For the 10th year in a row, “Poems From the Tree” capped off the Earth Day celebrations, as third and fourth grade students from Holden and Walls schools in Kent got the chance to share poems they had written about trees. The students had the opportunity to work with the Wick Poetry Center Outreach Program at Kent State on their poems.

Jim VandenBoom, the producer of “Poems From the Tree” and member of the Standing Rock Board of Directors, said getting children educated on environmental issues early on is imperative.

“They’re still free, and they’re still subject to a spark that’ll light something up,” VandenBoom said. “They’re just so creative. It blows me away every year that this can come from third graders.”

Ingram hopes, at the end of the day, events like this will help spark people to be more conscious about protecting the Earth.

“Everyday is Earth Day,” Ingram said. “Anything you can do to limit your use of fossil fuels — ride a bike, eat a vegetarian meal instead of a meat meal — all these things that reduce our carbon footprint will help the Earth.”

Jack Kopanski is an assigning editor, contact him at [email protected]