After five years as the lead organizer of EcoFest, a community-oriented gathering focused on the environment, conservation and sustainability, Debbie Plopper says that she has learned that overcoming the social stigma of what it means to host an ecological festival has been her greatest challenge.
Plopper noted there are many misconceptions within the community about the faces behind the festival and even the event’s purpose. Some entertain notions of a gathering of liberal, radical environmentalists and tree-hugging hippies, Plopper said; but EcoFest is no politically-driven consortium, and Plopper wants people to know that.
“We’ve taken the politics completely out of it,” Plopper said, adding that there are a variety of businesses, schools and individuals of all backgrounds behind the organization of the event. “EcoFest is truly a balanced, educational, family-friendly gathering,” she said.
The festival is set for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday in Laurel Park in Conway. This year’s theme is “Cultivating Curiosity,” and activities are centered on reigniting the public’s desire to discover the world.
Curiosity is the first step in exploration and learning, organizers said, and one major focus this year is the importance of tinkering and creative play in relation to science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
The festival will include interactive exhibits for both the young and the young-at-heart.
Previously popular exhibits focused on energy, health, eco-homes, agriculture and cooking, recycling and natural resources, have been expanded for 2013. The event will feature many new exhibits, including a program on ATV safety and responsibility.
“Visitors can explore the many connections between the environment and their daily lives, while listening to great music and enjoying delicious food, too,” Plopper said.
Teens and adults will enjoy the expanded car show and marketplace, and children will have fun with activities such as face painting and kite flying.
Both children and adults will find excitement with the trick kites, the festival’s popular butterfly release, a variety of animals, a cardboard car derby, and a myriad of other activities including cooking demonstrations, engaging science experiments and useful information for the whole family.
Adoptable pets will be on-site, and donated pet food will be accepted. For the safety of all of the festival’s visitors and other exhibit animals, organizers ask that pets be left at home.
The festival will also include, for the first time ever a star party pre-event on Friday from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Hosted by the University of Central Arkansas’ College of Natural Science and Mathematics, the party will feature multiple telescopes around the park with trained students and faculty nearby to guide stargazers as they peruse the night sky. While enjoying the beauty of what is visible, participants will also witness first-hand the effect light pollution has on the ability to see the stars and other heavenly bodies. Telescope owners are encouraged to bring their own equipment along.
It isn’t too late to sign up to participate as an educational exhibitor, marketplace vendor or volunteer, Plopper said, and there are still many volunteer opportunities before, during and after the event for people of all skill sets and interests.
To learn more on the festival visit http:// conwayecofest.com or call 501-548-2957.
More information can also be found on the festival’s Facebook page at http://facebook.com/conwayecofest, and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/conwayecofest.