Iowa City Earth Fest expands after moving online

After not taking place in 2020, the Iowa City Earth Fest moved online this year, giving more opportunity for community participation and presentations from local organizations.


Daniel McGregor-Huyer

Americorps Member and Cashier Megan Hill stands in front of Iowa City Hall on April 14 2021.

Brady Osborne, News Reporter

Iowa City Earth Fest will take place virtually this year, after being canceled in 2020. The virtual format of the event allows its presentations to take place over the span of two weeks, rather than just one day, which is what has happened in past years.

This format allows for more people to experience the presentations and information, as the presentations will be posted online on the Green Iowa AmeriCorps YouTube channel.

The festival is offering presentations from various organizations, such as the Blank Park Zoo, Johnson County Conservation, and the Iowa Children’s Museum.

These presentations are on a variety of topics, like recycling, wetlands of Iowa, taking “green breaks,” and various other topics dealing with the importance of conservation.

The events will be spread out over two weeks, from April 11-30, instead of happening all in one day like in previous years.

Megan Hill, education coordinator with Green Iowa AmeriCorps, said she originally started Earth Fest to celebrate Earth Day in Iowa City, as the city didn’t have many celebrations before it.

“I decided to create an event for Earth Day, because Iowa City, as far as I knew at the time, didn’t have anything going on like that,” Hill said. “Whereas we’d go to other cities in Iowa, for example, just in Cedar Rapids, they have a huge eco festival, and I wanted to bring that for my project to Iowa City, even if it was much smaller than they have.”

Hill said contributors could set up booths with their organization’s information and an activity for the people who were attending to participate in during the first Iowa City Earth Fest in 2019.

“Normally we would rent out a facility, it was Terry Trueblood in 2019, and we set up tables so each exhibitor can provide information about their organization, because that’s part of it. We want people to know who they are and what resources are available in Iowa,” Hill said. “And then they also had to do some sort of fun activity or presentation. And that’s kind of like what’s going on with virtual Earth Fest, is they’re all creating digital content of fun activities or presentations related to the environment.”

Hill said this year, she gave contributors a choice between doing presentations on various environmental topics, such as recycling and pesticide use, as well as tutorials for environmental-based crafts over Zoom at designated times.

Contributors can also send in a pre-recorded video that could then be posted to the Green Iowa AmeriCorps YouTube channel.

Hill said the purpose of Earth Fest is to educate the public on environmental issues and organizations.

“If people don’t know about something they’re not going to care about it. They don’t know what they don’t know, so that was a huge part of creating an Earth Fest event,” Hill said. “To educate the public on issues they may not be aware of, and also connect the people who come to Earth Fest to environmental organizations so that they kind of know who’s out there.”

Frances Owen, a naturalist in the education department of Johnson County Conservation, said this event is important to show the public how it can contribute to conservation efforts.

“It’s a celebration, really, of the beauty of our planet, and it’s a way to inspire people, and get people excited about what they can do, and actions they can take to help our planet,” Owen said.

Owen said, while the event is different this year, it also provides more opportunity for people to experience and learn about conservation efforts in Iowa City.

“This year in particular, I think it’s really cool that it is a month-long event. Usually it’s a one-off deal,” Owen said. “We’re constantly trying to try to get people outside and trying to get people to appreciate the environment that’s around them. So, you know, in a weird way, I think this adaptation to a pandemic is really beautiful.”

Shawna Polen, a Natural Resource Specialist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said that — while the event is successful so far — presenting online is a very different experience than presenting in front of people.

“I feel like a lot of times you end up missing out on the light bulb, like when you see the light bulb come on in the child’s eyes when they get it,” Polen said. “You don’t get to see that virtually. It doesn’t mean it’s not there, but you just don’t get to enjoy it.”

Polen said events like Earth Fest are so important, because they leave lasting effects on those who attend, and can in turn help change the world for the better.

“The people I’m teaching today are the people who are law makers and decision makers later, either they are right now, as older adults or the children coming through are the future leaders,” Polen said. “We have that nostalgia value that pulls behind them later on when we’re making the big decisions that confirms money, time, efforts or politics. Those are things you remember caring about because they’re important to you. So, you will make decisions based on those important ideas later.”