Berkeley Earth Day festival celebrates environmentalism

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Other than a short cameo by the Occupy movement, Saturday’s 42nd Annual Berkeley Earth Day Festival followed local tradition by celebrating the environmental movement.

The festival was held in Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park and featured cultural performances, craft and community booths and a farmers market.

Karen Hester — who has coordinated the festival for the past 19 years — said she wanted the event to emphasize community building and highlight the local talent in the area.

“Over the years, there’s been a lot more celebration and green-consciousness ideas,” Hester said. “It’s about honoring Mother Earth. It’s not only about learning how to have a smaller carbon footprint but also about having fun and enjoying the beautiful sun, about being alive.”

According to Hester, the Berkeley Earth Day festival began in 1970 and has since been held annually on the Saturday closest to Earth Day. She said around 3,000 to 4,000 people show up every year.

During the event, live music and dance performances exhibited Berkeley’s cultural diversity. Occupella — an informal group that sings at Occupy demonstration sites — performed an unusual rendition of the song “This Land is Your Land,” and dancers from the Shawl-Anderson Dance Center performed dances ranging from modern to belly-dancing.

“We believe that bodies and humans and motions are all part of nature and earth,” said Rebecca Johnson, administrative director of the center and organizer of the dance performances.

The various booths, including nonprofit organizations, local craftsmen and artists and other vendors from the Bay Area, promoted ways to conserve energy and water and reduce waste.

Another important aspect of the event was presenting healthful, organic food to the community. Berkeley Farmers’ Market, which is held at Center Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way, took place alongside the festival.

“We want to spread the word,” said David McClellan, market manager at Farm Fresh Choice of the Berkeley Ecology Center. “It’s a good event to bring a bunch of important organizations together. It’s positive. A lot of resources come out that people may not know about.”

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