Organizer of Earth Day fest hoping for a hand

SHEPHERDSTOWN – Organizer Todd Coyle is pleased that there will be no admission charge or parking fee for those who come out for next month’s Panhandle Earth Day Celebration at Morgan’s Grove Park here.

But staging the event – covering the fees for the musicians who play throughout the day and providing reimbursement to the park for use of the facility – still costs money, Coyle notes.

Music is one of the big draws of Panhandle Earth Day Celebration.

Music is one of the big draws of Panhandle Earth Day Celebration.

Starting this week, Coyle and Charles Town-based Earth Vibe Productions will launch an email campaign aimed at asking supporters to chip in what they can to support the fifth-annual festival, which this year happens April 27.

“My goal is to get at least 100 people to donate $5 each,” Coyle said. “We’re not looking to make money on this, but just to provide enough to cover our operating expenses.”

Again this year, the festival will feature rotating sets from nearly a dozen music groups from the Panhandle and across the region as well as craft projects and other activities for kids, a farmers market, demonstrations and information booths from a slew of green-minded vendors and activists, and more.

This year’s free admission actually marks a return to the event’s roots, Coyle notes. No admission was charged for the first two years of the festival, but back then organizers weren’t able to pay any of the bands for their time either.

“I wasn’t really happy about that,” Coyle said.

In the festival’s third year, organizers began to charge $10 per car for those who parked at Morgan’s Grove, with the money going to the bands and the park. That practice remained in place last spring, but Coyle said the change never was embraced.

“People just did not like having to pay to get into the park,” he said. “I heard so many complaints. I got emails and phone calls. It wasn’t popular – and I think it kept people from coming out to the event.”

This time around, by soliciting small donations from supporters now and by signing on more business sponsors and vendors, Coyle said he hopes to offer the best of both worlds: an event that’s free to those who come out but that still pays for itself.

Businesses can sign on as sponsors with a commitment as small as $50, Coyle said. “We want to keep it very reasonable,” he said. “We’re looking for sponsors at the $50 level on up to $300.”

Vendors interested in setting up a table at the festival pay $35 and nonprofits can reserve a space at no cost, Coyle said.

Attendance over the years has averaged around 500, Coyle said. “Last year, the weather was terrible and we know that kept people away. When it’s a nice day, we can get a turnout of 1,000 or more.”

The Panhandle Earth Day Celebration always is held around the time as Earth Day, the April 22 commemoration that dates to 1970.

Then-U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson created Earth Day as a way to promote ecology and respect for life across the planet and to boost awareness of air, water and soil pollution and other environmental woes.

Nelson, a Democrat who died at 89 nearly eight years ago, represented Wisconsin in the Senate from 1963 to 1981 and spent his later years working on environmental causes.

Coyle said Earth Vibe Productions is committed to putting on the festival for at least a decade.

“We want it to grow into another date on the calendar that people look forward to,” he said. “Having an event that brings people together for a day at the park is the perfect way to send the message that we’re all in this together. We’re all connected.”

The park is located along W.Va. 480 on the corner of Kearneysville Pike and Morgan Grove Road just outside of Shepherdstown. Food will be for sale during the festival, but attendees may bring along a picnic lunch if they’d like, as well as lawn chairs, blankets and other comforts.

Musicians on the lineup so far include The Boatmen, The Woodshedders, Billy Thompson Band, Moogatu, Handsome Sonic Bongo Band, LowBrau Highballers, Acoustic Blues Revue, Flowers & Birds, Rick Hall, Captain Obvious and the Moot Points, and the Wainwright Baptist Church Choir.

More information may be found at pedc.earthvibeproductions.com or by contacting Coyle (304-728-9725 or mail@earthvibeproductions.com).

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