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Earth Fest a good opportunity to get involved

Rachel Updegraph, right, shows her daughter Elise left how to feed a chicken during Earth Fest in 2023 at the Macoskey Center on the campus of Slippery Rock University. Butler Eagle file photo

The Macoskey Center for Sustainability Education & Research at Slippery Rock University frequently hosts programs centered around environmental education and action, but Earth Fest offers people a bridge into the center’s initiatives.

The Macoskey Center has hosted Earth Fest to commemorate Earth Day since the center’s founding in 1990, and only took a few years off during the COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s Earth Fest takes place Saturday, April 20, and will have free activities involving farm animals, student sustainability projects and composting, plus live music and food and merchandise vendors.

Sami Bortz, director of the Macoskey Center, said this year’s Earth Fest has more educational vendors coming than ever before. The presence of so many vendors and so many guests may help get new people interested in sustainable programs, Bortz said.

“Maybe someone doesn’t want to come to the workshops, this is their foot in the door in developing that relationship with them,” Bortz said. “It is such a great bridge-building event between the broader community and the university. It's one of the few events I know aside from sporting events that brings a lot of people to the center.”

Earth Fest kicks off at noon, and will have different activities through 5 p.m., all at the Macoskey Center off Harmony Road in Slippery Rock Township.

Bortz said nature and animals are a constant draw for Earth Fest, and this year, an equestrian center will offer pony rides and the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania will host bird walks around the campus. Additionally, a pollination organization will talk about the significance of native plants, there will be an electric car show, and the Pittsburgh Climate Lobby will be at the event.

Although the event takes place on a university campus, Earth Fest’s activities appeal to a wide variety of ages, Bortz said, and she has seen young children and older adults participate in the same activities in years past. Some aspects of the event, like the local vendors market, also contribute to sustainable education in subtle ways, according to Bortz.

“There is a little something for everyone. We really try to make it as an all-ages event,” Bortz said. “Just purchasing an item from a local vendor, that is taking a sustainable approach.”

Bortz said up to 600 people have attended Earth Fest in the past, and she expects it to be popular again this year, so long as the weather holds out. She added that the festival aims to make people appreciate nature and the planet more, which is a sentiment shared by the commemoration of Earth Day.

“Having an earth day event is just quintessential to having an environmental center,” Bortz said. “We want to take the opportunity to celebrate this earth we have and have, and have people take a positive reaction toward protecting our earth.”

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