EarthFair '97 a huge success

EarthFair named one of the top 200 events in the country.

by Kari Gray
t was hot. It was crowded. It was fun and entertaining, educational and in formative. It was EarthFair '97, the eighth annual environmental educational fair in Balboa Park. And now, our annual celebration has received national recognition.

The Events Business News, a trade journal for the event production industry, maintains a database of over 38,000 events. In their most recent issue, the EarthFair was chosen as one of the top 200 events, based on its impact on the area, event management, history, entertainment value, and our promotional/sponsorship relations.

Joni Craig of the GenderPeace Clothesline Project agrees. "EarthFair is the best organized event we attend," she claims. "The volunteers work so hard and it is so well organized."

Reflecting its growing regional and national profile, this year's event seemed to attract an unusual number of people from outside San Diego as well. A survey conducted last year indicates that as many as one-third of the visitors came from outside the San Diego area. "There was even one All Species Children's Parade unit that came from Bakersfield!" noted volunteer Parade coordinator, Rebecca Grijalva.

Every year we get more exhibitors from outside the San Diego area. This year, exhibitors arrived from Oregon, Utah, Nevada, Virginia and Orange County for the event. Volunteer communications coordinator Steve Winn noticed that most of the calls to the site office were from people from outside San Diego looking for directions to the Park.

Something for everyone

What attracted so many visitors this year? Well, EarthFair '97 included 247 fascinating exhibits; seven stages of entertainment plus a drumming circle; an All Species Children's Parade with girl scouts, animals and people dressed as "space aliens"; electric vehicles you could drive - and go out and buy tomorrow; an on-site recycling center staffed by Urban Corps workers; adoptable animals; delicious vegetarian food from all over the world; and 75,000 people looking for ideas for making a better world.

The U.S. Navy displayed their ongoing restoration efforts and Trans2 displayed their electric vehicle. The Sierra Club, the Mountain Defense League and the Friends of South Bay Wildlife Refuge gathered thousands of signatures on petitions. Exhibitors gave away flowers, trees, firewood made from recycled banana peels, and water. Non-profit groups raised thousands of tax-deductible dollars (profits from all exhibitor sales at EarthFair must be donated to a non-profit organization). There were no arrests, only one medical emergency, several unauthorized protests about par for the course but no psychics, despite Union-Tribune reports.

Community effort

EarthFair is only possible because of the hard work of hundreds of volunteers from all over San Diego County throughout the year. With only one full-time employee, volunteers start planning EarthFair in January. During the weeks and months before the EarthFair, volunteers photocopy press releases and flyers, make signs and banners, call for donations and send out confirmation letters. During the event, they set up the tables in the morning, park bikes, hand out event programs and pick up trash. Phillip Nicholson, a Rancho Bernardo High School student, promised to volunteer again next year, but may get his chance September 20 when San Diego Earth Day presents the Harvest EarthFair in Vista.

EarthFair also depends on the support of the community and a wide range of sponsors including: the California Department of Conservation, 91X, Miramar College, Sony North America, Qualcomm, Bank of America; media sponsors: The Planet 103.7, Q106, KSWB, Jazz FM 98, KFMB; and generous in-kind and product donations from Earth Media, Solar Electric, Earth Connections, City of San Diego Environmental Services Department, Balboa Park, Urban Corps, Steven Morris Design, San Diego Transit, United Airlines, San Diego County Bicycle Coalition, Mark Tighe Construction, and Vitamist.

After the eighth successful EarthFair, the variety of exhibits, the commitment of its volunteers and the widespread audience that it attracts prove that a local, grassroots event can become one of the top 200 events in the country. Earth Day is every day and Earth Day is NOW.

Kari Gray is SDED's only full-time employee and co-producer of EarthFair. For information on how you can participate, please call (619) 272-7370, or our 24-hour message line, (619) 496-6666