Iowa City is hosting first annual climate festival virtually

The city will have both virtual and in person events that community members can attend over the course of the week which began Sept. 19


Daniel McGregor-Huyer

Bur Oaks Land Trust in Iowa City is seen on Tuesday, Sept. 22 2020. Bur Oaks Land Trust is one of many organizations participating in Climate Fest.

Claire Benson, News Reporter

Despite COVID-19 moving many large gathering events virtual, the City of Iowa City is still hosting its first annual climate festival, with community members and local businesses coming together to celebrate the city’s sustainability efforts.

The first annual climate festival began on Sept. 19, and will have both virtual and in-person community events until Sept. 26.

Iowa City Climate Action Engagement Specialist Sarah Gardner said the process for beginning an annual climate festival in Iowa City has been in the works for several years.

“City staff started looking into what it would take to host such an event,” Gardner said. “The original idea was to have it as a one- or two-day event over the course of a weekend, and it was going to be a live, in-person event, but then [COVID-19] happened.”

The festival was originally set to occur in May, Gardner said, and the team made the decision to move the festival to a virtual format due to health and safety concerns brought by COVID-19.

Gardner said hosting the festival virtually has its perks, as they were able to spread the festival out during the course of a full week, rather than just having an in-person event during a two-day weekend.

She said that each day of the festival corresponds with a demand in Iowa City’s climate action plan. There are individual and community events hosted each day that allow participants to engage in activities of their choice, as well as reflect on the topic with the surrounding community.

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Gardner said this festival serves as a celebration of the sustainable improvements Iowa City has made.

Gardner said she believes the most influential aspect of this festival comes from community members sharing personal experiences of how they are environmentally conscious and how they make sustainable changes to their everyday life.

“There’s so many different people in the community [who are] engaged with this issue doing so many different things,” Gardner said. “You don’t always get the big picture, and I’m hoping that the festival is a way to shine a light on all the things people are doing, and businesses and organizations in Iowa City to help us meet our carbon reduction goals.”

FilmScene Programming Director Rebecca Fons said FilmScene has been planning on participating in the climate festival since late 2019. Their event occurred on Tuesday at 7 p.m., and consisted of a virtual screening of the documentary The Biggest Little Farm, as well as a post-screening discussion regarding the film.

Fons said COVID-19 caused the screening to move from being shown in the theater, to an outdoor screening, and finally to a virtual screening.

Fons said although the structure of their event has changed and the festival is not quite how they envisioned it, FilmScene is still excited to participate and spread climate awareness in Iowa City.

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“Even though it’s in a virtual space, we are really proud of being more than just a movie theater,” Fons said. “What we really love to do and what makes FilmScene such a special place is that we collaborate with different community partners, and the climate festival is a great example of that.”

Iowa City’s Bur Oak Land Trust organization will also be participating in the climate festival, hosting an in-person educational session and a guided hike through Turkey Creek Nature Preserve on Friday.

Bur Oak Land Trust Programming Director Meredith Roemerman said the general mission of Iowa City’s climate action plan resonates with their organization, which prompted them to participate in the festival.

“Climate change is not only a [national] issue, there are things we can do locally to address it,” Roemerman said. “We just want to support our city’s mission to address climate change and kind of enact their strategic plan this year, and we were just really happy to help the city and their initiative.”