Air and Water

Airfest, Little River Roundup merge into Earth-focused celebration

What started out as two events joined by a rain date has taken on a single identity.

The Little River Roundup and AirFest combined their efforts in 2007 when AirFest got rained out. The already-planned Roundup welcomed the AirFest events that could be rescheduled to their date, and the combination became a successful daylong event that drew more than 800 people to Maryville College campus.

Don’t mess with success. This year the two events merged to form one event with dual missions - cleaning up the Little River and celebrating clean air, water and land.

Earth Roundup will begin from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. at the Thompson-Brown House where folks can register and then be sent off to clean up sections of the river and other parts of the county. Everyone comes back together at 5 p.m. at Maryville College where folks can enjoy music, games, food, educational challenges and the chance to win to two mountain bikes.

Cathy Rhodes, executive director of Little River Watershed Association, said last year’s combined event just happened when the first annual AirFest got rained out. “They called us and said, ‘Can we hook up wit you and do it on the same day?’ and we said sure. It turned out terrific,” Rhodes said.

Rhodes said more the 800 people showed for the dual events. “After it was all over, we said this actually went really well, and it was well received. We thought, ‘Let’s do it again next year, except on purpose,’ “ she said.

The Little River Roundup has been going for eight years and included cleaning up the river as well as the roadsides throughout the county. There was usually some kind of celebration or band and food following the Roundup to show appreciation to the volunteers.

“Now that we were incorporating another facet of environment: the air. We really have the whole spectrum of water, land and air,” she said. “We thought we should change the event’s name and make it a whole new event, at least for evening part. The morning part is still very much the same as it has always been.”

People still register for the Little River Roundup portion at Thompson-Brown House on East Lamar Alexander Parkway down from the Blount County Justice Center.

The new name and new logo help celebrate the marriage of the two events. “We have about 25 to 30 vendors who are going to participate this year with idea of providing some educational information about air, land or water to citizens,” she said. “We’re making it more fun.”

Bob Booker, manager of legal, environmental, engineering and community relations with Denso Manufacturing of Tennessee, said planners expect this year’s event to be bigger and better. While participants will continue with clean-up activities in the morning, the celebration at Maryville College will be improved.

“The biggest change is there’s more of an educational focus for the evening session,” he said.

Children 16 and younger will be eligible to receive an educational passport. They will then visit 10 different booths. When they answer questions correctly at all 10 booths they are eligible to win one of two mountain bikes.

“We’re going to have more fun, weather permitting and we’re going have three bands this year instead of just one,” he said.

Booker said participants will enjoy barbecue, pizza, hamburgers and hotdogs. “The meal is free for everyone who participates in the morning clean up. Clean-up participants also get free T-shirts,” he said.

Booker said there would be about 25 different booths at the college. Sponsors for the event include Little River Watershed Association, Keep Blount Beautiful, Blount County Chamber of Commerce and Maryville College.

Several Airport Motor Mile dealers will have fuel-efficient and hybrid vehicles on display. The Blount County Highway Department, Denso Manufacturing and other companies also will display hybrid or fuel efficient vehicles.

“The support has been tremendous. Several of the local vendors are companies who’ve all been extremely supportive,” Booker said. “It’s going to be a waste-free event. Keep Blount Beautiful is leading the effort. We’ll have Frisbees to eat off of and biodegradable utensils. We’re hoping to run a strong recycling post for the event.”

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