Anyone who ever wished they could do something constructive to celebrate Earth Day should get up early on Saturday, April 25, and go to the pavilion in the Bicentennial Greenbelt Park.
From 8 to 10 a.m. volunteers for Earth Round-Up will gather at the pavilion behind the Blount County Courthouse. “Anyone can volunteer to clean. We’re doing roadside, river, riverside clean up and beautification projects,” Keep Blount Beautiful coordinator Charlene Desha said.
Desha said groups of 10 or more can pre-register so they don’t have to show up that morning to register at the pavilion. Groups wanting to pre-register and get their supplies ahead of time should call Keep Blount Beautiful at 865-681-4809.
The Keep Blount Beautiful coordinator said this year clean-up volunteers will be given a free reusable shopping bag, and they will receive a free hotdog dinner at the second part of Earth Round-Up -- a community celebration at Maryville College’s front lawn from 5 to 8 p.m. with activities, information booths and entertainment.
Desha said Clean-Up Day started in the early 1990s as Little River Awareness Day before Little River Watershed Association and Keep Blount Beautiful were organized. “In 1995 there was a pamphlet that said the clean up effort started in 1990. They used to do river clean-ups. It grew into the Little River Roundup with Keep Blount Beautiful and Little River Watershed Association,” she said.
Desha said this is the second annual Earth Round-Up event where Keep Blount Beautiful, Little River Watershed Association and the Chamber AirFest have all joined together. “We are all partnering together for the second year in row,” she said. “Three years ago it had rained out AirFest. The organizers asked if they could join with us on our day. It was so successful as a joint venture that Earth Round-Up was born.”
Desha said she is seeing more children’s groups and Boy Scout and Girl Scout groups volunteering for the county’s portion of the Great American Clean-Up.
“We’re getting lot more groups. That has always been a part of the whole day. Schools want to get more involved and are getting children involved, which is great,” she said. “We talk about how this affects children. It’s great that teachers are trying to get kids involved in the environment.”
The Keep Blount Beautiful coordinator said planners also are trying to get businesses and churches involved. “We’ve had churches say they want to do something that day or during that week to be involved in Earth Round-Up,” Desha said. “If certain people can’t do it that day, I’m encouraging people to clean up anytime that week. We’re pretty open towards anyone wanting to do clean-up, and we’ll support them with materials.”
Desha said that since the environment has become a hot topic, it is on the minds of more people, and she has seen people get more excited and more concerned about litter. “I think being green became more of buzz word a few years ago but people are hearing it more and more now than they used to, and they believe we need to take care of the community,” she said.
In 2008 there were more than 400 participants and Desha said she would like to double that amount this year.
The evening event is at Maryville College campus from 5 to 8 p.m. “If you have cleaned up in the morning you receive a free hotdog dinner. We’re have a big children’s area with children’s activities, including crafts and inflatables,” she said.
There also will be environmental information booths to raise awareness and free music from groups such as Mountain Folk Reunion, the Woodpeckers and Pistol Creek Catch of the Day. The bands start at 4:30 and go until 8 p.m.
A billboard art contest among middle school students across Blount County will culminate with a presentation of prizes to the winners. “They had to do art posters of environmental type themes,” she said.
Keep Blount Beautiful and the Foothills Land Conservancy sponsored the contest. The winning entry is scheduled to be on a billboard in Townsend and a digital billboard on Alcoa Highway across from Sevier Heights Baptist Church.
Youngsters also get a chance to win four tickets to Dollywood. They simply go to the different tables at Earth Round-Up and get a passport stamped. “Everyone who gets his or her passport completely stamped at every table has his or her name is put for a drawing for four tickets to Dollywood,” said Desha.
For those who want to start their green journey early, there will be a bike train and free bike valet parking at the event. A map of bike train stops can be found on keepblountbeautiful.org.
The main sponsor for the event is Alcoa, Inc., then supporting sponsor, Denso, Regional Clean Air Coalition, the Daily Times and the Great American Clean Up. US Food Service is providing food for the volunteers.
For information about Earth Round-Up, call Desha at 865-681-4809 or reach her via the web at www.keepblountbeautiful.org and littleriverwatershed.org.