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Oxford’s annual EarthFest gets makeover for 2024

<p>Tables line the edge of Oxford Memorial park as festival goers stroll across the lawn. Photo by Sam Norton<br/><br/></p>

Tables line the edge of Oxford Memorial park as festival goers stroll across the lawn. Photo by Sam Norton

Each year since 1970, millions of people all over the country have celebrated Earth Day on April 22. Around the same time of year for over 15 years, the Oxford and Miami University communities have celebrated EarthFest, a festival celebrating community and collaboration between local environmental groups and businesses.

Yet this year it is going to look very different.

The Miami Environmental Professionals Association (MEPA), the club that organizes EarthFest each year, has partnered with Miami University's Community for Creativity and Innovation (MUCCI) to completely redesign and rethink this staple of Oxford’s springtime festivals. 

“They are really helping us to make EarthFest the biggest it’s ever been,” Gillian Hart, the president of MEPA, said. 

Usually a casual and simplistic event, this year MUCCI plans to go over the top to get people's attention.

This includes bringing jugglers, stilt walkers, multiple live performances and food trucks, and renting both Oxford Memorial Park and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park across the street. MUCCI will allow vendors from the farmers market to stay a few extra hours for the event, and even place a giant inflatable globe in the middle of the entire festival. This plan is a far cry from the couple dozen tables and calming backdrop music that EarthFest goers are used to.

This year, Creativity City, an event put on by MUCCI, has taken on the task of creatively, and completely, redesigning how EarthFest looks. The group is aligning its collaboration to lead into World Creativity & Innovation Day, recognized by the United Nations as a day of observation to use creativity and innovation for climate solutions, on April 21. 

The two organizations hope that their collaboration will increase the visibility of Creativity City and EarthFest simultaneously. Jacob Shachter, an emerging technology in business and design major with an entrepreneurship co-major is the lead on Creativity City, and appreciates the timing of the events.

“Planning Creativity City [this year], we knew we wanted that sustainability element,” Shachter said. “And so it just so happened that the collaboration with EarthFest was perfect, honestly.”

The setup historically consisted of tables for each organization spread across Oxford Memorial Park giving out gifts and information about themselves. The event has expanded to include live entertainment and games, but the idea has stayed relatively the same over the years.

“It feels like … we have an opportunity to bring [sustainability conversations] to the public square,” Jim Friedman, a Chief Steward for World Creativity & Innovation Week and clinical professor in Miami’s entrepreneurship department said. “It comes in the same package ... like a fifth grade science project, with students sitting behind a table with a three-board poster.”

Friedman explained that those involved with Creativity City think EarthFest is not reaching its intended audience. According to Friedman, the event only appeals to people in the community who already care about the planet, those who are already involved in the sustainability scene and understand the importance of the work the participating organizations do.

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“We don't need them …Right?” Friedman said. “If we're gonna sing to the choir, then we're not gonna move the needle.” 

MUCCI wants to change that. It wants those walking Uptown who have never heard of EarthFest or who wouldn’t normally care about it to be drawn in by the scene. 

Friedman believes that events themed around the problems our planet is facing and promoting lifestyle changes can be intimidating for some. He wants to change the notion around EarthFest and transform it into a “fun” event, one that people will be more inclined to attend.  

EarthFest will be held on Saturday, April 20, from 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. Creativity City will continue the celebrations the rest of the day with events of its own, hoping to capitalize off of EarthFest and increase awareness about World Creativity and Innovation Day. 

“I hope that they don't leave until 11 p.m. I hope they stay out for hours with us,” Shachter said. “I hope they take away the knowledge that there's a different way to look at and do things.”

Despite the changes, the true nature of EarthFest remains the same. Grounded in celebrating sustainability and community, festival-goers can still expect to leave with knowledge and inspiration from the dozens of organizations that are the heart of EarthFest year after year, just with some new attractions to entertain them.

“I was really careful in the planning,” Hart said. “Just to ensure that it goes off without a hitch and that people who come back every year can get that experience that they're expecting and everybody just has a good time.”