People of all ages filled the bustling Ventura Promenade Saturday afternoon to celebrate and learn about the environment for the annual Earth Day Eco Fest.
The Ventura Charter School has put on the event every April for the past five years. It is the school’s main fundraiser that focuses on bringing the community together and celebrating Earth Day by raising awareness about the environment.
“Every year we try to make more money for the school,” chairman of the event Toni Guy said. “All of the money goes to the extracurricular programs for the kids. If we didn’t make this money, kids would go without a lot of things.”
Not only does it allow the school to give its students a more enriched learning experience despite recent budget cuts, the event is an opportunity for the general public to celebrate Earth Day. It has grown every year, adding more sponsors, food vendors, and live music and entertainment.
“We want to actually bring the whole community of Ventura together and to teach them how to be sustainable, because there are a lot of different ways here to learn how to do that,” Guy said.
Sharon Gorsch has two children who attend the Ventura Charter School and is a big supporter of the event.
“It brings together so many different people from so many different perspectives and it raises their awareness,” she said. “It gives the local businesses the chance to share their environmentally friendly wares and services.”
Local businesses and organizations fill the promenade with booths at each Eco Fest to raise awareness about their cause and teach the community about how to help the planet in different ways.
Many of the booths have activities like arts and crafts and trivia games to share their message with children.
Middle schoolers Michelle Tachet and Lily Henley enjoyed learning about the different ways the organizations are working towards conserving the planet. They were fascinated by what the booths had on display, especially one that featured a mat made from hair that is used to suck up oil.
“It’s great to teach the kids about what being organic really means. If the parents don’t know, then the kids are not raised with the knowledge. Giving them a little education in the right direction is really beneficial,” Lassens employee Aspyn Jones said.
It is an especially great opportunity for Paso Pacífico, a group that does biological conservation in South and Central America.
“We work in Central America but our main office is in Ventura,” said Nicole Salazar, one of the representatives of the company. “We really want the community to know that we are here.”
A variety of local organizations were present at the event, including the Ventura Water foundation, the Ojai Raptor Center, the Ojai Humane Society, the Ventura Botanical Gardens, and the Channel Islands National Park and Marine Conservancy.
Eco Fest also allowed the organizations to learn more about each other’s work for the planet.
“I’m a very environmentally conscious person, but I didn’t even know about half of the groups here [before today],” said Denise Buttrey, one of the Ventura Botanical Gardens representatives.
For Buttrey, and most people at the event, Eco Fest is about community, the environment, education, and awareness.
“I hope people get a sense of responsibility to the community and the planet. It takes care of us and we need to take care of it. We have to take care of each other and these community organizations are a way for us to stay involved,” she said.
Credit: Bethany Fankhauser/The Foothill Dragon Press.