By Michelle Jerome
In April, 2014, I paid my first visit to Chelan. My visit happened to coincide with the Earth Day Fair.
As I had come to visit Mark Tesch — my now husband — I was thrown into the center of festival activities.
Years previous, Mark had taken over the responsibility of the children’s area from Zach Robertson. The castle, originally made from cardboard boxes and duct tape, morphed into a structure involving scaffolding, shipping pallets and recycled large pieces of cardboard. Throw in a slide, some wooden shipping crates and boards to walk on and you have a fantastic area to play.
The children are invited to paint the walls of the castle and add their own creativity.
Suddenly, I was helping build a castle. Then I was passing out paints and brushes and offering large tee-shirts for cover-ups and a bucket of water to the hoards of happy children.
It was a picture-perfect spring day with sun, breeze, hundreds of people laughing and talking, booths of educational displays, recycled books, vehicles that save on fuel and so many friendly people welcoming me.
Everyone was in high spirits as this is really the first real social event of the warm season.
The day ended too soon and everyone pitched in to clean up. As the sun was setting and I was stacking the cardboard to take to the recycling center, I began to dream of moving to this valley.
The following July I did move here and joined the Earth Day committee that plans and puts on the festival every year.
A few members have been with the fair since the beginning.
In particular Scott Beaton.
He remembers the early days this way: “I was picking grapefruit with the flowering citrus smelling so earthily wonderful that something in my head said you are so lucky maybe it is time to give back.”
From this sentiment grew a non-profit group of locals who focused on starting a recycling program in the valley.
In 1987 they had their first fundraiser and then were able to start a monthly recycling drop-off behind NAPA Auto Parts and obtained a state grant to build a permanent recycling center, which Scott Beaton went on to run until he retired in 2016.
The first Earth Day Fair was 1990. Recycle Coolcat was born and continues to be the mascot of Recycling and other Save the Earth endeavors. The fair was always and continues to be held in Riverwalk Park in downtown Chelan.
Over the years there have been ecology education programs, scrap metal collection drives and school videos.
Enthusiasm for these adjunct programs has waxed, waned and persisted.
Recent years consistently have hosted alternative fuel vehicle displays, recycled book sales by Friends of the Library, garden areas with sales of plant starts and composting demonstrations, artwork and crafts for sale often of recycled materials, dance performances by young dancers, and always live music from popular local musicians throughout the day.
The festival tends to draw crowds of 1,000-1,500.
The children’s area also persists.
We build the castle and create blocks that the children can paint. We have had materials for them to decorate crowns to wear. In 2015, we created Spike the Wolverine dragon. He is 12 feet long with an 8-foot wingspan and is made from recycled materials.
Each spring he sheds his belly scales and the children paint new ones (halved paper plates) to affix to his belly. He ends the day resplendently adorned.
This enthusiastic, happy, healthy community effort is part of what drew me to move to Chelan in July of 2014.
The other part is of course my husband Mark Tesch. We married and have actually bought the house previously owned by a couple who were part of the original planning group.
Early recycling center and Earth Day Festival planning meetings were held in what is now our kitchen. Spike spends his non-festival time protected in our carport.
We plan to continue with the children’s area until we are no longer physically able.
Come and join us this year. We have an exciting lineup of booths, music and food. Help us bring on spring and celebrate this beautiful planet as we all learn more about what sustains the planet and our community. April 15 at Riverwalk Park.