For our Mother Earth

Roundup festival draws crowds to rivers in morning, college in afternoon

More than 850 crowded the front field of Maryville College campus Saturday for Earth Roundup.

The event was part clean-up effort and part celebration of clean air, water and land.

The clean-up portion, led by Little River Watershed Association and formerly known as the Little River Round Up, started Saturday morning when volunteers gathered at the historic Thompson-Brown House on East Lamar Alexander Parkway in Maryville to get assignments for clean-up duty along the Little River or besides streets and thoroughfares in Blount County.

The celebration portion, formerly known as Air Fest during its inaugural run last year, again was held at Maryville College. The afternoon event included an expanded number of booths, more musical entertainment and a chance for children to win one of two mountain bikes as part of an environmental educational challenge.

Rain forced the Air Fest organizers in 2007 to ask permission to have their event at the same venue as the Little River Round Up and the public’s response was good.

“Keep Blount Beautiful, Little River Watershed Association and the Chamber Airfest Committee all combined last year on accident and decided to combine this year on purpose,” said Cathy Rhodes, executive director of Little River Watershed Association. “This was a real collaborative effort by a lot of people.

Bob Booker, manager of legal, environmental, engineering and community relations with Denso Manufacturing of Tennessee, is co-chair of the Earth Roundup committee with Rhodes.

“We were very happy with the turnout and everyone’s participation,” he said.

They estimated about 850 people attended the event. The event went from having 10 booths in 2007 to 31 booths in 2008.

“It was a very good response everybody had a good time and hopefully learned a lot in the process,” Booker said.

Booker said it was rewarding to the committee to see all the different groups working together for a common goal, especially on such an important issue as the environment. “It gives me a lot of hope for the future, especially seeing all the children,” he said.

Tim Self, president of the board of Keep Blount Beautiful, said he could foresee a day when this event became a marquee event of the season. “With the gathering and planning of it, I can see this becoming the premier community spring event much like you have the Fall Festival, and you’ve got Freedom Fest in the summer,” he said. “What better event than having Earth Roundup around Earth Day to encourage environmental stewardship and advocacy?”

Tim and Deb Hiles of Maryville enjoyed the event. “We went last year. I think it’s great for Blount County,” he said.

Jack Stiver of Pasadena Calif. said he was in town visiting his daughter, Jaquie Stiver-Spanyer, and her husband, Steve Spanyer. Recycling has taken a strong hold at their house. “She doesn’t throw anything in the trash,” he said. “They’ve been into recycling for a while.”

Gloria Fuchs said the message about persevering the environment was a positive one. “It’s good, especially for our young people,” she said.

Randi Fuchs said some folks just don’t know how important recycling and taking care of the environment is. “It’s very important to come together and learn what’s important,” she said. “Some people don’t have any idea about zero-waste. It educates them and their parents.”

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