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April 17, 2013

MI Earth Day Fest returns to its roots

By Mary Beth Almond
C & G Staff Writer

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Crowds explore booths during the 2010 MI Earth Day Fest in Rochester.

ROCHESTER — The massive green festival that has taken over downtown Rochester the past five years is returning to its roots this month.

MI Earth Day Fest Manager John Batdorf said the festival has had quite a history. Founded in 2006, the MI Earth Day Fest was originally held on the campus of Oakland University the weekend of Earth Day. In 2010, the event expanded and moved to Third Street and Water in downtown Rochester. For the past two years, the festival was moved from Earth Day weekend to later in the calendar, in the hopes of better weather for festival-goers, and it was renamed the Green Living Festival.

This year, organizers decided to once again hold the festival in conjunction with Earth Day and return to the MI Earth Day Fest name.  

“We’re happy to be a part of what’s really a worldwide celebration of Earth Day — the largest secular celebration in the world. Last time I checked, a couple years ago, it’s observed by 1 billion people in 120 countries,” Batdorf said.

Presented by MI Green Team, the MI Earth Day Fest event typically draws tens of thousands of people each year to learn about healthy living, as well as earth-friendly products, services and programs.

“We’re really excited that we’re back to an event that’s happening during the school year, prior to the home and garden season, with fewer event conflicts, so we’re confident that we will have great crowds,” Batdorf added.

This year’s event — held 4-8 p.m. April 26, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. April 27 and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. April 28, rain or shine — showcases ways for people to shop, learn and celebrate eco-friendly alternatives with more than 150 exhibits, more than 50 presentations, programs, networking, kids activities, entertainment, organic foods and beverages, awards, free wellness activities, prizes, contests, and more. Admission to the festival, which occupies a 100,000-square-foot vacant lot at Water and Third streets, and all programs are free and open to all ages.

The event kickoff and awards ceremony will be held 7-8 p.m. April 26 and will include the third annual MI Green Hall of Fame and My Green Schools Art Contest awards.

Organized by actor/singer, voice coach and Rochester resident Jennifer Kincer, the festival’s entertainment program has a local focus this year.

“We are trying to get the community more involved this year,” Kincer said of the program, which will feature many local singers, dancers and musicians.

On Friday night, singer/songwriter Sarah Farnam and the St. Irenaeus Children’s Choir of Rochester Hills will both perform. The Pied Pipers Recorder Ensemble, Rachel Lee Williams, Kincer Catallo Private Voice Studio and Doni Flynn of Fresh 100.3 will be featured in a local music talent showcase at 6 p.m. April 27. On Sunday, Adagio Dance Company and the Radio Disney Road Crew will perform.

On all three days, festival-goers can shop a variety green and wellness products, services and programs, which are arranged into 10 groups — including Wellness Way, Green Living, Green Home and more — and feature everything from how to set up a rain barrel and solar power products, to an art fair featuring natural and recycled products.

People can take a peek at innovative, eco-friendly and healthy products and services on display in the areas of food, energy, transportation, clothing, home, kids, garden, finances, art and more. Or they can learn something new during one of the many wellness programs, featuring presentations by national wellness leaders — including best-selling author Dr. Kerrie Saunders, DMC cardiologist Dr. Joel Kahn, green juicing educator Anca Iordachianu and others.

The festival will feature a variety of presentations on green living, including international climate change expert Peter Sinclair, Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner Jim Nash, beekeeper Rich Wieske and many others.

Foodies can head to Farmers Row to purchase a variety of organic produce, meats and other items, or stop by the organic food court for a bite of locally made, organic and/or vegetarian dishes.

Children will be entertained at the Kids Corner, which offers exhibits, crafts, a climbing tower, a straw bale climb, a Radio Disney performance and a full schedule of other activities.

Adults may want to stop by the Connections Café to help build the community through networking, see some noncommercial displays and participate in roundtable discussions by local nonprofits.

There will be a parade and pep rally around the festival area and down the Paint Creek Trail at 11 a.m. April 27. Marchers and performers are encouraged to register before the event, and prizes will be awarded.

Major sponsors include Pure Eco Environmental Solutions, Bosch Automotive, Republic Services and Meijer.

For all event details, including program schedules, lists of participants and registration for the parade, visit www.miEDF.org.