Hands-on environmentalism

Endangered Species Faire to return to its original (shadier) location in Lower Bidwell Park

Endangered animals, both live and simulated, are the highlights of the Endangered Species Faire.

Endangered animals, both live and simulated, are the highlights of the Endangered Species Faire.

Photos by alan sheckter

Endangered Species Faire
Saturday, May 3, One-Mile Recreation Area, Bidwell Park. For more information, visit www.endangeredspeciesfaire.org

For the 35th anniversary of its Endangered Species Faire, the Butte Environmental Council is returning to where it all began.

The May 3 event will take place in the One-Mile Recreation Area in Lower Bidwell Park—site of the inaugural festival in 1979. Specifically, the booths and stage will be at the group picnic area next to the playground, across from Sycamore Field.

BEC, which has held the fair at Cedar Grove for decades, decided to move back to its first location for better accessibility as well as more shade.

“It’s closer to the central part of downtown, and there are bike trails and walking trails—easier access for people,” said Kyle Stubbs, a Chico State senior working as an intern for the event.

Photo by Alan Sheckter

Other than logistical details, though, the event won’t be changing its familiar format. It will still feature educational booths, activities, music and food—all with the aim of exposing the public to environmental issues, especially those related to animals facing threat of extinction.

“We’ve always had an emphasis on education,” Stubbs said, “but this year we’re really putting a much larger focus on educating the community and, of course, children.”

Added Nani Teves, BEC’s watershed program coordinator: “We are going back to some of the original intentions with hands-on learning, as more and more kids spend their time indoors and science [education] has become rote memorization versus exploration.”

To those ends, this year BEC is rolling out the Nature Bowl, which will feature games and educational activities in a competitive framework. There will be an “eco scavenger hunt” for kids, who will receive prizes after picking up items at various booths, and children will also be able to take home free seedlings of vegetable plants to start their own gardens.

Another kid-centered offering—albeit with adult appeal—will be the popular Procession of the Species. Starting at noon, roughly 400 students from local schools who have spent six weeks studying endangered species and making puppets will march from the downtown City Plaza to the fair stage in the park, where they’ll present their colorful papier-mâché creations.

Photo by Alan Sheckter

Other featured showcases include Wild Things, a group featuring wild animal rescues, plus live music all afternoon—“a new band every hour,” Stubbs said, everyone from Sofa King to Electric Canyon Convergence.

And, in conjunction with Recology Butte Colusa Counties, BEC and its vendors (including Maria’s Gone Tamales, Blush Catering and Chico Natural Foods, among others) have pledged to make the fair a zero-waste event, with at least 90 percent of all disposable items able to be recycled or composted.

“That’s been a pretty big undertaking,” Stubbs said, “but it’s … a good thing to strive for.”

The Endangered Species Faire was created to coincide with the commemoration of Earth Day (April 22), which was nine years old when the fair was born. Rather than expand the focus to address a wide range of environmental concerns, BEC’s mission for the event has remained focused on its name.

“People connect with wildlife and animals,” Teves said. “That’s less vague than larger environmental issues like groundwater or climate change.”

This year’s theme is “Webs of Life,” and the emphasis is on the interconnectivity of species.

Traditionally held the first weekend in May, the fair is Northern California’s oldest annual environmental festival. It draws some 5,000 attendees.

“The Endangered Species Faire is an opportunity to celebrate and highlight significant local efforts to protect and restore the environment,” Stubbs said. “We want to provide involvement opportunities for everyone. Yeah, we focus a lot on kids and kids’ activities to get them engaged, because they’re very important, but there are opportunities for everyone to get some experience, to get some knowledge, and just have fun.”