EarthFair, Balboa Park’s annual celebration of Earth Day, is pitched by its organizers as America’s largest free annual environmental festival. EarthFair 2010 lived up to its billing Sunday, April 18, when an estimated seventy thousand visitors came to be entertained and educated on how to treat our planet a little better.
The event marked both the twentieth consecutive year that the festival was held in Balboa Park, San Diego, and the fortieth anniversary of the original Earth Day.
Many San Diegans have made EarthFair a personal for family tradition. Mark from San Diego said he attends almost every year. “It’s a great way to spend a day at the park,” he said, noting that he “learns something new each time.”
Those who braved the snarled traffic around and in the park and the crowds were rewarded with the opportunity to visit their choice of almost four hundred booths of exhibitors and food vendors. They could also seea children’s parade, a display of “clean cars,” dozens of dancers, musicians, magicians, and other performers on one of a half dozen stages, not to mention the spectacle of all the other visitors with different looks, age, dress, dress, groupings, backgrounds, and species.
One neat aspect of Earthfair was that although most exhibits had some reasonable tie-in to the theme of the fair (“Do Your Part” to help the Earth), there was great diversity in the exhibitors themselves. They included government bodies, private corporations and businesses, environmentalist organizations, local nonprofits, political activist groups, animal welfare societies and clubs, organic gardeners, vegan advocates an purveyors, and religious and spiritual groups.
Diversity also extended to the size and prominence of the exhibitions as well, thanks to a sliding fee scale that enabled individuals and small groups as well as established organizations to participate. Thus, in addition to the booth by SDG&E, the large San Diego power utility, were booths for small start-ups that sold solar energy systems as a way to produce your own nonpolluting energy and possibly get off (SDG&E’s) grid. The “Clean Car Corridor” had a large booth from Ford showing off its hybrid cars including the Fusion and the Escape; thirty feet away was the endearingly spacey CAFLY (car and flying vehicle. This gas-electric hybrid was first made by inventor Fred Ferino in 1973 and tinkered with ever since, butis still the only one of it’s kind. At one end of the park Seaworld featured had a professional and informative display on its sea-life rescue efforts; at the other end the San Diego Puppet Insurgency (recently seen in Balboa Park at a political demonstration) helped create a plastic tarp with glued pieces of garbage as part of the “Heal the Gyre” campaign to bring people’s attention to how plastic bags and other garbge threaten ocean life.
The one element that seemed counter to the general positive and friendly vibe of the festival was a group confrontational anti-abortion protestors who showed up by the San Diego Planned Parenthood booth. They held signs, shouted slogans, and displayed graphic pictures, causing Earthfair organizers to place a sign warning parents with children of their presence. City police and private security monitored the area; no violence was reported.