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MI Earth Day Fest celebrates 12 years of celebrating the planet







The MI Earth Day Fest started at the Upland Hills Ecological Awareness Center in partnership with Oakland University in 2004, where it drew in about 1,000 attendees in its first year. Since then the festival has grown so much that it is now held in Downtown Rochester and has drawn in crowds up to 50,000.
 
"The original reason we created this festival was that we had the same people coming to green events and earth-friendly events and programming at the center, and we decided we wanted to have more of a mainstream, large public event in celebration of Earth Day," says Festival Manager John Batdorf.
 
The 2017 Earth Day Fest will be held Friday, April 21 through Sunday, April 23. More than a decade since its formation, this festival has become one of the largest Earth Day celebrations on the planet. Batdorf attributes this to having so much positive cooperation and publicity, and the fact that Downtown Rochester is such a draw.
 
"We just took the resources that were available to us and applied it to Earth Day," he explains. "Downtown Rochester already has huge festivals like Fire and Ice and Art and Apples. It's a great spring location with trails and waterways close by. Now enough people are interested in Earth Day and getting out there to celebrate spring."
 
Earth Day Fest is the first outdoor event of the season, acting as a harbinger of spring for the last 12 years. "We're taking Mother Nature at her best!" says Batdorf.
 
The festival is a totally free, all-ages event that includes an earth-friendly trade and consumer show with over 100 exhibitors of a variety of green products and services as well as green, health, and earth-friendly nonprofit programs. In addition to that, there is a full lineup of music and dance all weekend long, presentations on a variety of topics ranging from ecofriendly lawn care to healthy living, a MI Green Hall of Fame awards ceremony, a kids art contest, a parade, and a fun run. There is also a busy kids' area with tons of activities including a climbing tower and crafts, and a huge recycling drive led by the Rochester Community PTA Council Green Schools accepting everything from clothing to household appliances.
 
The big news this year is that the festival is moving back to the corner of Third and Water Streets, the site it started at when it first moved to Downtown Rochester in 2009 where it also drew in its largest crowds. This allows the festival to expand its footprint with more exhibitor space, a bigger kids area and recycling area, and a larger "Connect Café."
 
Batdorf notes, "The people who founded and run this festival still are business people, and we feel a healthy environment is good for business. There are more jobs in alternative energy [than in nonrenewables]. Being earth-friendly is good for business, obviously for tourism and the quality of life of the community, but also if it's a place where people want to live and both people and businesses care about the environment, it winds up being a good place to do business too."
 
All events are free and open to the public. Highlights include:
 
- MI Green Hall of Fame Awards Friday, April 21 at 7 pm; 
- Parade and pep rally Saturday, April 22 at 10 am; 
- RARA Earth Day 5K Fun Run Sunday, April 23 at 8 am; 
- Presentations on bionutrient gardening, climate change, renewable energy, sleep deprivation, harnessing personal power and more; 
- Eco-friendly and wellness exhibitors;
- Live music presented by Kincer Vocal Coaching featuring Lia K. Catallo, Ken McCauley Band, Steve Taylor, Pistons Performing Arts Center dancers, School of Rock and others;
- Drive up/drop off recycling service along Third St., between Second and Water streets;  
- Food, kids’ activities, door prizes and more throughout the weekend.
 
The MI Earth Day Fest runs from 4-8 pm Friday, 10 am-6 pm Saturday and 10 am-4 pm Sunday.
 
For directions, schedules, lists of participants and the latest updates, visit www.miEDF.com
 
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