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Spring Greening Festival celebrates community and the environment

April 8, 2013
By cnp
Posted in Community Events

If you ask any of Clarksville's Spring Greening Festival organizers about the first festival, they'll admit that it didn't turn out exactly as they had anticipated.?That April day in 2011 dawned clear, but very cold and turnout was much lower than they had hoped for.?But in spite of its less than spectacular beginning, that first festival got people thinking…thinking about how to celebrate Clarksville and build on the sustainability efforts taking place in the community.

Now, as organizers count down the final days to the third annual Spring Greening Festival, they are excited to see how the community has come together to grow the festival. "I know last year was incredible," said Alicia Merritt, festival coordinator, "and I hope this year is even bigger. It would be wonderful if we grew a little every year. But we want to stay true to our roots, and really focus on the three main things [the festival] was created for - living a sustainable lifestyle, promoting local resources, and promoting healthy living."

This year’s festival gets underway on Friday, April 12, with events organized by the University of the Ozarks Student Life Office. Festival-goers will get a preview of some fashions to be modeled during the University’s upcoming "Recycled Fashion Show," sponsored by the Ozarks art department and OzArts, the University’s art club. The evening will also feature some great entertainment during the "Ozarks Variety Show" emceed by Ozarks own "Man with Many Faces," Ty Volz, and showcasing the talents of Ozarks students. The show will start at 6 p.m. on the stage by the American Legion Hall, known locally as "the Castle."

The festival continues on Saturday, April 13, beginning with a pancake breakfast at 8 a.m. "The pancake breakfast fundraiser for the American Legion Hut will be held in the library parking lot," Merritt said, with proceeds from the breakfast going to the American Legion Bunch-Walton Post #22. "A lot of people don’t even know what they do in the community," she explained, "so we want to highlight them for letting us use the space and just show that we really do appreciate them."

At 10 a.m. the "Book It! Downtown 5K Race" gets underway. The race is organized by the Johnson County Public Library, in partnership with the Spring Greening Festival. Registration for the event is $20 per runner. To register online, go to Proceeds from the race go to support the library.

Also at 10 a.m., Matt Smith, acoustic, jazz and instrumental artist from Fayetteville, will take the stage and the vendor booths will open. "We have several vendors coming in," Merritt said, "some local artists and crafters, several local businesses, some informational booths, and some charitable organizations. We even have vendors coming in from Memphis to do some woodwork." Vendors may offer items for sale, or simply use their booth to promote their business, but, Merritt added, "With the booths, we like to make sure they show how they give back to the community."

One of the largest vendor booths expected at the festival will be hosted by the University’s Ozarks Outdoors program. The group plans to set up a large base camp on the creek, with tips on topics ranging from what type of outdoor equipment you’ll need for different activities, to the importance of "leave no trace" and how to minimize your impact on the environment.

Another very special booth at the festival will be hosted by H.A.W.K. (Helping Arkansas Wild Kritters), a Russellville-based organization dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of sick and injured wildlife. H.A.W.K. director Lynne Slater will give a presentation at noon, where she’ll be joined by some of the center’s feathered ambassadors.

Festival-goers who have been following the local news may recognize the H.A.W.K. name from the role they played in rescuing birds and animals impacted by the recent Exxon Mobil tar sands oil spill in Mayflower, Ark. The rescue efforts seriously depleted the center’s resources, so the Spring Greening Festival has teamed up with the Johnson County Peach Festival to hold a Rubber Ducky Derby on the creek. 100% of the proceeds from the derby will go to H.A.W.K. to help them restock much-needed supplies.

If you find yourself getting hungry while browsing through the booths, Merritt said there will be food available for sale at the festival. "We have a food truck that will be there the whole day," she said. "And around lunch time, if people don’t go to the food truck, we’re hoping they will go to some of the smaller local restaurants we have here in town."

At 1 p.m., the Mountain Boomers Old-Time String Band will take the stage. Made up of musicians from Johnson and Pope Counties, the band will perform a variety of old-time tunes, Civil War era songs, and play, in general, some "string-pickin’ goodness."

Later that afternoon, as the vendor booths close down, The Singing Falcons from Forrester-Davis Development Center will take the stage to perform a few songs. "Ben Eakin is the one who puts this together," Merritt said. "This is like their first big venue! We’re really excited to have them."

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The Pirates’ Kids Cove will feature Captain Jacqués Sparra as part of the kid-friendly afternoon activities.

The afternoon activities will focus primarily on the kids. "The whole kid’s carnival - the 3 to 6 time - is pirate-themed," Merritt said. "The kid’s carnival is when we’re really focusing just on the kiddos."

She said there will be a recycled kid’s carnival where the kids can build cardboard pirate ships that they can race or make "just all kinds of things, stuff that maybe the parents don’t realize they can help their kids make at home from cereal boxes. They’ll earn little rewards, like a little eye patch, that they can help them get dressed up to go over to the kid’s stage."

Merritt said that unlike in previous years, this year there will be activities for the parents as well. "The Ozarks Art department and the art club are going to have two booths, one for adults and one for kids. That way the parents can be involved too."

The kid’s carnival will also feature "Bounce-House Bay," in keeping with the pirate theme, and the kid’s stage, called "Pirates’ Kids Cove" will again draw on the fantastic talents of Ozarks student Ty Volz. "Ty is going to be dressed up, and he is going to do the Jacqués Sparra thing!" Merritt said. "He has three hours worth of material, but we’re going to have some other live presentations and activities in between his sets. He’s going to do sword-fighting and all kinds of stuff. That is like the ‘big thing’ for the kids this year. I’m not even a kid and I’m really excited to see it!"

As the evening shadows reach across Legion Island, and the kid’s carnival winds down, more music acts will take the stage. Arkansauce, a bluegrass band from Fayetteville, begins playing at 6 p.m., followed at 7 by Shawn James, a soul/blues singer, also from Fayetteville. The evening entertainment will wrap up when RoLLMoDeL, led by Doogie Holland, lights up the banks of Spadra Creek with their spectacular light show. "I’ve seen some of his pictures - it’s crazy!" Merritt exclaimed. "I think it will be really fun. It’s something totally different that Clarksville hasn’t had."

This is Merritt’s first year as festival coordinator, and the senior Strategic Communication Major from Clarksville admits that she’s feeling the pressure as the event gets closer. "They asked me to be the coordinator and director this year, because next year (Dr. Heather McFarland) won’t be here. They wanted me to do it this year so she could kind of teach me the ropes and show me what to expect. This was her baby…she was one of the founders of it. But even next year she’ll be involved - she just won’t be able to be here to do it."

Merritt added that she, McFarland, and other primary members of the festival committee - Sherrie Arey, Emma Bottorff, Megan FinCannon, Ashley Merritt, Lauren Ray, Rikki Runyan and Kathy Jones - are especially appreciative of the support they’ve received from the festival’s sponsors, and they encourage everyone to thank the sponsors for the part they’ve played in helping make the festival happen. This year’s festival is presented by The Spring Greening Festival Committee, along with University of the Ozarks, Ozarks Outdoors, Clarksville-Johnson Co. Regional Chamber of Commerce, University of the Ozarks Student Life Office, The Downtown Association, OzARTS, The Johnson County Public Library, and The American Legion Bunch-Walton Post #22.

With only a few days left before the festival, Merritt said the committee is still finishing up details and making last-minute updates to the schedule. "Definitely check the facebook page," she said. "Someone is always posting on there, sometimes up to three times a day. We keep our facebook page going almost like a live feed!"

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The Poster for the 2013 Spring Greening Festival was designed by Ozarks student Rikki Runyan.