Spring Greening Festival to offer free concerts, great food, and fun activities

Release Date: 4/2/2012

If you're looking for something to do on a Saturday, how about a free outdoor concert featuring a number of different bands? What if there were also free food and booths featuring work by local artisans? This April, there will be a day exactly like that, right here in Clarksville, when the second annual Spring Greening Festival kicks off down at historic Legion Island.

Spring Greening Festival

Ginny Gardner, a senior art and secondary education major from Little Rock, created the artwork used to promote the upcoming Spring Greening Festival. She also created the design which will be used on the "Book It Downtown" 5K Race T-shirts. Gardner's work often pulls in themes from nature and the environment.

The festival will open on Friday night, April 13, when Ozarks Outdoors will host a "jam session" on the stage at the American Legion Hall, known locally as "the Castle." The headliner at Friday's event will be Guta, a roots music band from Fayetteville, Ark.  And since it is Friday, the 13th, and since the Castle is considered by many to be one of the most haunted places in this area, Dr. Brian McFarland, Ozarks associate professor of chemistry, will give festival goers a chance to do a little "ghost hunting" for themselves. McFarland, who teaches a course in science and the paranormal, will host several paranormal experience sessions, complete with EMF meter readings, voice and digital image recordings, and Ouija board communications. These sessions will be held throughout the night with eight to 10 participants per session.

Saturday's activities will take place on Legion Island, and will be more "family-focused" said Lauren Ray, a junior Environmental Studies major from Siloam Springs, Ark. A member of the Spring Greening Festival Planning Committee, Ray said all of the Saturday events were planned with three main goals in mind: to focus on environmental sustainability, healthy living, and supporting local businesses. All of the activities are intended to engage attendees in a fun, creative, family atmosphere that event organizers hope will increase environmental and community awareness and stewardship.

"It's about being a community, but also about how we can build the community using the sustainability efforts we already have in place," explained Dr. Heather McFarland, Ozarks assistant professor of communication. McFarland, who was one of the original spring greening festival organizers, said the festival has really grown this year, thanks to the combined efforts of all the organizers and sponsors. "It's going to be a big learning festival for everybody, and we're really excited about it because of that," she said. "It's a free family event - it's one of those where you can spend as much money as you want, or not spend anything."

The booths will open up on Saturday morning at 9 am, and at 9:30 am, festival-goers can try out a little yoga, with Krista DeBuhr owner of snerQ Yoga Studio. The "Book It Downtown" 5K Race, sponsored by the Johnson County Public Library, then starts at 10 am, followed by a 1 mile Family Walk, where even the little ones get a chance to walk part of the race trail.

At noon, HAWK (Helping Arkansas Wild Kritters) will give a presentation about their organization's efforts to rehabilitate injured wild animals. Dawn Holder, Ozarks assistant professor of art, is working with the OzARTS art club to setup a booth of student artwork and a number of other local artisans will also be showing and selling their works at the festival.  Other groups plan to setup booths promoting their organization's sustainability efforts, including the university's Planet Club, who will be selling T-shirts and eco-friendly water bottles. An afternoon session presented by Ozarks Outdoors will cover bike safety, and will include a ride on the local bike trails around Spadra Creek.

If all of the walking around leaves you feeling hungry, festival organizers have included a special treat; there will be free samples of organic and healthy recipes made by Peggy's Pantry, in Lamar. And, of course, food will also be available for purchase from members of the American Legion, who will be cooking at the Legion Hut.

One special activity designed just for kids is an arts and crafts area organized by Terri Thomas, a senior Strategic Communication and Sociology major from Fayetteville, Ark. Thomas said the project is inspired by the movie The Secret Life of Arrietty. "I was supposed to plan a mock kid's party for [Dr. Heather McFarland], and I was like 'what's going on with little kids?' That movie came out, and that movie is all about recycling, all about borrowing - pins and needles and sugar cubes - never stealing of course! So I decided in the kids section that I would try and create Arrietty's world."

The kids arts and crafts area will consist of six or seven tables where kids can make their own tie-dye T-shirt, or create a craft project using natural materials (such as pine cones or acorns), or using materials that are often just discarded (such as the cardboard from a paper towel roll, or the plastic six-pack drink holders).  Thomas said anyone who would like to donate craft items may contact her at tthom7729@ozarks.edu.

At 1 pm Saturday afternoon, the first band set will open on Legion Stage. Throughout the afternoon and evening, festival goers will have a chance to hear a number of different bands take the stage, including Swimming, a surf rock/indie band from Fayetteville; Shawn Mavrides, soulful acoustic soloist; Matt Stevens; Effron White, whose music is influenced by performers such as Bob Dylan, John Prine, and Guy Clark; Mitchell and Emery, an acoustic folk duo; and a local favorite, the Mountain Boomers, an old-time string band from Johnson and Pope Counties. "One of the coolest things is that all the electricity for the bands and everything will be done through the Solar Power Company in Little Rock," said McFarland. "They're bringing in everything, so it will be fully sustainable."

While the booths will close down around 4 pm Saturday afternoon, the bands will continue to play until about 10 pm, McFarland said. "Bring the bug spray because it is down on the creek!" she cautioned.

The festival was organized by The Spring Greening Festival Committee, along with University of the Ozarks, Ozarks Outdoors, Clarksville-Johnson Co. Region Chamber of Commerce, The Downtown Association, The Johnson County Public Library, and The American Legion Bunch-Walton Post #22. The committee is still looking for volunteers to help with various booths and events, so individuals who would like to help out should contact Lauren Ray at lray103@ozarks.edu. So far the response from the community has been tremendous, McFarland said.  "I've never been so proud of a community as I am of Clarksville," she said. "We believe in our neighbors, but sometimes we forget we have them too, because we get bogged down. So this is a great chance to say 'Let's just have some fun!'"

This year's festival promises to be everything the organizers hoped for when they started the planning process, possibly even more. For families, the festival will offer a chance to spend the day together out on the creek doing any number of fun activities together. For Ozarks' students, and especially the graduating seniors, the festival is a great way to spend some time with friends before school is out. "It's one of those last legacy types of things," McFarland said. "This is one of the easiest ways to get a free concert, a day of sunshine, and some good food! You can walk down, enjoy it - you can even bring your studying down there. Festivals are something we don't get to see very often when school is in, and this is one of those festivals that has so many things to take part in! If I were a student, I would be like 'wow, all I have to do is walk down here, and it's all there for me?'"