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Heathsville Earth Day Festival Celebrates Nature and Good Stewardship

The 5th annual Earth Day Festival in Heathsville welcomed hundreds of visitors to enjoy dozens of exhibits, demonstrations, displays and activities Saturday, April 20, 2019. The event was free and open to the public.

Hosted by NAPS (Northumberland Assn. for Progressive Stewardship) in conjunction with the first Heathsville Farmer’s Market of the season, the eco-friendly event celebrated the Northern Neck’s natural beauty and showcased the area’s environmental stewardship resources.

The festival kicked off with the Earth Day 5K Run and School Challenge. Congratulations to overall winners John Baker of Lynchburg and Tahi Wiggins of Heathsville. Chesapeake Academy took 1st Place ($1,000) in the School Challenge, with Northumberland High/Middle School taking 2nd Place ($500).

At the entrance to the festival area, attendees were invited to add a “leaf” to the “Earth Day Pledge Tree” by writing down their individual pledges to help the environment this year. Each person who made a pledge was offered a complimentary NAPS reusable grocery bag.

The “Spirit of 1608” – an impressive full-size replica of a sailing barge Capt. John Smith used in his exploration of the Chesapeake Bay – was “moored” just inside the entrance. Interpreters in period dress from Reedville Fishermen’s Museum informed visitors about the vessel’s features, construction and use, adding insights from the Captain’s notes about the pristine waters over 400 years ago.

NAPS volunteers worked with the museum to add a “trashy” twist to the vessel display – off the starboard bow was a pile of discarded bags, cans, bottles and other refuse littering the simulated seabed, with signs asking “What would John Smith say?” and "Would John Smith start a colony here if he saw this?"

The museum also displayed exhibits in its tent next to the barge, including a diorama depicting how trash, fertilizer and other pollutants wash into the creeks, bay and oceans.

NAPS’ Julie Hendrickson reinforced the anti-litter theme donning her “Trash Queen” costume covered with discarded bottles, cans and bags and topped with a trash-laden crown. Attendees posed for pictures with the “queen.”

The Northern Neck Master Gardeners promoted their Shoreline Evaluation Program – a community service initiative informing waterfront property owners about shoreline protection and stabilization options. The program recommends installing and maintaining “living shorelines” whenever possible due to the environmental benefits.

The George Washington Birthplace National Monument is a favorite environmental venue for master naturalists and bird watchers. This year the focus was on preservation of natural resources on Federal Lands. Visitors to the tent were shown educational displays with fossilized objects including shark's teeth and bones which were illegally possessed inside the George Washington Birthplace National Monument. Pelts were also on display this year, including a skunk, raccoon, and mink, to help individuals correctly identify animals found in the local area.

The Northern Neck Master Naturalists promoted their program of training volunteers as educators, citizen scientists, and stewards helping Virginia conserve and manage natural resources and public lands. For more information about the courses and other outreach efforts, visit its website.

TOGA (Tidewater Oyster Gardeners Association) featured its familiar tank demonstrating how oysters filter the water. Visitors to the exhibit also learned about classes on oyster gardening in Virginia and how to purchase spat, growing cages and other materials.

A crew from the Northern Neck Chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society showcased a variety of plants recommended for area gardens and landscapes. The use of native plants not only protects beneficial pollinators and other plant and animal species native to the Northern Neck, but can save considerable time and money, as they tend to be hardy, low-maintenance, and require less water and pesticides.

The display of the Northern Neck Chapter of the National Audubon Society echoed the theme of nature as a unified system. Visitors to their booth leafed through nature books and viewed beautiful illustrations of birds native to the Northern Neck.

The Rappahannock Wildlife Refuge Friends’ impressive display of wildlife promoted their annual “Go Wild” event, coming up on May 5th. The organization’s mission is to raise awareness of the Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge through education and support. Its wildlife display, including stuffed and mounted birds and prey animals, were a hit with children – and startled a few visiting dogs. New this year was an actual eagle’s nest – large enough for kids to sit in.

Keep Virginia Beautiful returned this year promoting the VDOT Adopt-a-Highway program and other anti-litter efforts. An offshoot of Keep America Beautiful, the Virginia organization also offers grants to support environmental and beautification programs and projects in the Commonwealth.

Northumberland Middle School TAG instructor Shauna McCranie represented the Community Problem Solvers student group, which has proposed that the county schools add solar panels for energy production. The students have made several field trips and presentations since starting the project last fall.

The NAPS tent displayed several recent initiatives, including its campaign to reduce pollution from disposable plastic straws and grocery bags. Visitors were invited to join its annual fall creek cleanup and other highway and shoreline cleanup events. Visitors were offered a NAPS reusable grocery bag, and those who joined NAPS were offered an LED light bulb.

The Citizen’s Climate Lobby (CCL) booth highlighted the bi-partisan legislation introduced into congress and the need for action to stem the effects of climate change, especially in coastal Virginia where land subsidence is augmenting the effects of sea level rise.

NAPS member Lee Allain displayed and demonstrated a working solar energy array. He answered questions about requirements, installation, rebates, and how homeowners and businesses can incorporate the technology to save money and lower their carbon footprint.

The Northern Neck Electric Cooperative returned this year with its display showing how little energy LED light bulbs use compared to incandescent bulbs of the same brightness. It also showcased its Cooperative Sunshare program, allowing members to purchase blocks of solar-generated energy.

Again this year, the centerpiece of the festival was its All-Electric Vehicle exhibit, featuring a Tesla Model S and a Tesla Model 3. Paul Fairbrother and Bette Gruben explained the features and benefits and invited festival goers to sit behind the wheel. Each of the vehicles can travel over 300 miles on a single charge, and the fast-charging network has expanded considerably making long-distance travel easily manageable. For local travel, they plug in at home. Both Fairbrother and Gruben have solar powered residences, so their cars are normally powered by electricity generated by the sun. Other benefits of an electric vehicle is instant acceleration and lower maintenance costs (no radiator, oil changes, hoses, belts, water pump, fuel filters, clutch, starter motor, thermostat, spark plugs/wires, fuel injectors, fuel pump, etc...).

"It was windy, but a really gorgeous day," said Mike Ahart, NAPS president. "A big thank you to all the exhibitors that did such a great job and to the Tavern...and to everyone who attended the festival. A really fun day in Heathsville."

Young and old alike added a bit of art to the "Draw on Me" board:

Full sized images of each picture and more in slideshow below:

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