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Cultivating Conway theme of Conway EcoFestPublished August 22, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Ashley Spurr, left, a University of Central Arkansas student and the event director for EcoFest in Conway, and Debbie Plopper, festival founder, stand with a cardboard cutout that will be used as a display at the event. EcoFest will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 14 at Laurel Park in Conway.
CONWAY The fifth annual EcoFest is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 14 in Conway’s Laurel Park, with favorite events and some new ones, organizers said.
“This year, there’s a lot of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) focus,” said Ashley Spurr, event director. “We’ve had that before, but this year, we’re really getting a lot of momentum and synergy.”
Spurr, 29, of Conway took the reins from founder Debbie Plopper of Conway, who is still involved with EcoFest.
This year’s theme is Cultivating Curiosity.
“As we get older, we get in a 9-5 grind and lose that sense of wonder. We want to ignite that in adults,” Spurr said.
Hands-on exhibits and interactive science experiments are part of the experience.
The Museum of Discovery will bring its mobile Tinkering Studio, which is a table of miscellaneous parts that lets kids create whatever they want.
“We want to encourage and engage in a very fun way,” Spurr said.
The areas of EcoFest include agriculture and organics; cooking demonstrations and a cooking show; the Cardboard Car Derby; education (primarily the Faulkner County Library, which includes a story hour at the top of every hour); energy; transportation; health; kite building and lessons; marketplace; natural resources and animal habitats; and recycling, litter and waste.
Plopper said the Conway Area Career Center at Conway High School will send its culinary students to do cooking demonstrations.
In addition, the high-school welding students will make a “giant magnifying glass” to tie into the Cultivating Curiosity theme.
Spurr said a pre-event called A Star Party will be held Sept. 13, something the festival has never had.
In a partnership with the University of Central Arkansas, the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics will provide six to 10 mobile telescopes for people to use to examine the night sky.
“We also will assess light pollution and its impact [on seeing] stars and other celestial bodies,” Spurr said.
Details and time (sometime after dark) of the pre-party will be posted on the organization’s website, conwayecofest.com, and on Facebook.
“If you think about it, the Earth is a floating island,” Spurr said.
“When you’re on an island, the first thing you do is assess your resources,” she said. “We are a celestial island, and all our resources are here.”
Plopper said one exhibit in the health section is on the rain forest and “why we need to care about it.”
“So often we think it’s so far away, we don’t realize that 70 percent of the cancer drugs come from rain-forest plants,” she said.
The rain forest will be easily identified by a cardboard cut-out from the movie The Croods.
“We’ve gotten these big movie displays; we’ve gotten several of them, so what we’re going to do is augment them for our purposes,” Spurr said.
Future breakthroughs in medicine rely on preserving the rain forest, she said.
“That’s the tie-in to health,” Spurr said.
A cutout from The Hobbit will have a hole cut in the door of Bilbo Baggins’ cottage so kids can walk through it.
“We talked about how Hobbits have a love of all things that grow and how they love to eat,” Plopper said. “We’ll tie that in with the agriculture section, probably.”
“It’s really important to invest in these kids and youth because they really are the ones who are going to be taking over,” Spurr said. “It sounds hokey. … Children are our future, … but we want them to take ownership of their planet and take ownership of their community.”
A display is planned on the Pegasus oil pipeline that ruptured in Mayflower, Spurr said.
“Not the political end of it; we are not a political event,” Plopper said.
“The purpose of EcoFest is to understand the connections between these things,” Plopper said. “People want to stereotype the environment. We do want to focus on solutions and have people better understand the connections.”
Spurr said the event is an opportunity for people to seek out information “they might not be as well-versed on,” or learn more about something for which they have a passion.
For example, “The car show is going to be bigger this year,” Plopper said, with displays of hybrid and fuel-efficient vehicles. Tips on how to care for an older car and reduce emissions will be provided, too.
One of the hallmarks of the festival is the gravity-propelled Cardboard Car Derby.
“It’s huge,” Spurr said.
Details and how-to kits can be found on the website.
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission will bring a “mudding truck” that kids can climb on, and information on how to responsibly ride all-terrain vehicles, Plopper said.
Animals play a big part in the event, and back this year will be alpacas, goats and sheep. Raptor Rehab will bring hawks and other birds.
The day’s activities will also include a butterfly release.
An animal-welfare organization will bring some pets for adoption, Plopper said, and donations of pet food will be accepted.
However, Plopper said, people are asked not to bring their own dogs to the event for safety reasons.
Donations of eyeglasses are being requested by the Lions Club, and prescription medications can be dropped off during the day, Plopper said.
“Again, it’s linked to so many things,” she said of improper disposal of medications. For example, Plopper said that in some larger cities, prescription medication such as Prozac have gotten into the water supply, and that can be prevented.
“It’s applicable to your everyday lives,” Spurr said of the information available at the event. “What you put in your body, what you put in the environment, is going to come back to you.”
It is a festival in the truest sense of the word, the women pointed out, and includes live music, food vendors, and arts and crafts.
Participants are being added each day, Plopper said.
“We have an amazing base of people who help. Individual groups always exceed 100,” she said. “The city’s been very good in supporting this. They’ve really been good partners.”
Event T-shirts are for sale for the first time, too, Plopper said.
The gray or blue T-shirts are $15, plus tax, for adults and $10, plus tax, for children.
Limited quantities will be available at the event, but T-shirts can be ordered on the website. Pre-orders will be taken this week, Plopper said.
Proceeds will be reinvested into the festival, she said.
Plopper said that at first she had to “convince people it’s something different,” but five years later, the festival is making believers out of them.
“Science is not a stuffy thing. It’s an important and fun thing,” Plopper said.
Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or email@example.com.
Niche Publications Senior Writer Tammy Keith can be reached at 501-327-0370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.