Metro-East Living

Alton festival raises environmental awareness with fun activities

Heartlands Conservancy built a temporary “parklet” at last year’s Mississippi Earthtones Festival in Alton to show how people can add green space to an urban setting. It had artificial grass, picnic tables, plants, a sidewalk for chalk drawing and a sandbox.
Heartlands Conservancy built a temporary “parklet” at last year’s Mississippi Earthtones Festival in Alton to show how people can add green space to an urban setting. It had artificial grass, picnic tables, plants, a sidewalk for chalk drawing and a sandbox. Provided

Most folks have never heard of a “parklet,” which is why Heartlands Conservancy decided to build one at last year’s Mississippi Earthtones Festival in Alton.

People from the land-protection organization in Mascoutah brought in artificial grass, picnic tables, trees, plants and a sandbox. Parents sat down and relaxed. Children blew bubbles or used colored chalk to draw pictures on the sidewalk, also known as an “art meadow.”

“The idea was to show that it’s really easy to incorporate green space in an urban environment, and people will use it,” said Mary Vandervord, chief operating officer.

Heartlands is one about 65 vendors and exhibitors that will operate booths at this weekend’s festival, which is marking its 10th anniversary.

Hours are noon to 10 p.m. Saturday. Broadway Street will be closed to vehicles between Alton and Henry. Admission is free.

The festival is sponsored by Alton Main Street and the Sierra Club, which created it in 2007 to celebrate the Mississippi River through “art, music and conservation.”

“We showcase our region’s environmental organizations, as well as local businesses that are working to help green residents’ lives,” said Sara McGibany, Main Street executive director.

Vendors will sell earth-friendly products and services, including garden produce and handmade items. Exhibitors will demonstrate how people can incorporate more sustainable practices in their lives.

The festival will feature music by bluegrass, acoustic rock and Grateful Dead tribute bands, as well as demonstrations, rehabilitated wildlife, food and drink.

Children’s activities range from instrument-making to drum circles to a game called “Toss the Sunbeam Bag into the Solar Panel.”

New this year is a Recycled Fashion Show at 12:30 p.m. It’s being coordinated by Lillian Bates, a local designer who owns By Design studio and fashion school.

The point of this is, instead of throwing something in a landfill, let’s make some fun fashion out of it.

Lillian Bates on Recycled Fashion Show

Contestants will enter garments made with recycled materials. One woman crocheted together the disc-shaped bottoms of tin cans for a skirt and vest. Another is using garbage bags.

“The point of this is, instead of throwing something in a landfill, let’s make some fun fashion out of it,” Lillian said.

Each year, the festival includes a river clean-up. Volunteers armed with life jackets, gloves and garbage bags have removed 21 tons of trash along the Mississippi.

This year, boats will ferry people to designated sites at 9 and 9:30 a.m. Pre-registration is required at www.DowntownAlton.com.

“Festivalgoers will have many chances to have a positive effect on the environment that day,” said Christine Favilla, Three Rivers Project coordinator for the Sierra Club.

“They can get easy tips on things, such as winterizing their homes and conserving water, or bring along (materials) to be recycled.”

Those materials are limited on Saturday to plastic plant pots, cellphones, eyeglasses, hearing aids, home and garden tools and clean plastic food containers.

At a glance

  • What: 10th annual Mississippi Earthtones Festival
  • Where: On Broadway between Alton and Henry streets in downtown Alton
  • When: Noon to 10 p.m. Saturday
  • Who: Alton Main Street and Sierra Club
  • Activities: Exhibits, vendors, demonstrations, fashion show, music, art, children’s activities, clean-up
  • Recycling: Plastic pots, cellphones, eyeglasses, hearing aids, home and garden tools and clean plastic food containers
  • Admission: Free
  • Information: Visit www.DowntownAlton.com or www.facebook.com/EarthtonesFestival or call 618-463-1016
  Comments