This month, we are exploring how different Main Street communities have incorporated science into their events and promotions. For some, the word “science” can intimidate, evoking memories of heavy textbooks and high school chem labs. The truth is, though, science is everywhere – even on our Main Streets. And inviting residents and visitors to experience science doesn’t have to mean breaking out the test tubes, either – instead, we can help foster meaningful and memorable experiences within our communities as they reimagine and expand their relationship with science outside of the traditional classroom setting.
Today's story features Hendersonville, North Carolina – where, through the passion of residents and strong ties to local organization, they launched their first annual Earth Day Festival to celebrate their local environment and educate residents about ways to get involved with regional environmental sustainability efforts.
Hendersonville, North Carolina is in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, with the most beautiful hiking trails, waterfalls, greenways, and farmlands. The environment is what makes our community whole. In celebration of Earth Day, people in the community and members of the Hendersonville Environmental Sustainability Board demonstrated a desire for a worthy Earth Day celebration. In the past, Earth Day had been observed primarily with park trash pick-ups. This year could be different.
Our lovely, old timey downtown Main Street is the site of numerous family friendly festivals and events. It is the hub of our town and festivals held here bring everyone from our community together. Therefore, we wanted a festival to occur here in commemoration of Earth Day for our residents and visitors to enjoy and participate in. In 2023, we launched the annual Hendersonville Earth Day Festival – and through research, collaboration, and hard work, our first year was a resounding success. Though there were some hiccups along the road, we welcomed over 2,500 visitors and received a wealth of positive feedback from attendees.
We hope you can learn from our triumphs and challenges as you work towards building more science-related events and activities into your Main Street program.
Getting Started: Build your mission, then find your team
The Hendersonville Environmental Sustainability Board (ESB) is an advisory board to the City Council that provides guidance on the best policies and practices that will achieve environmental sustainability. Board members and the team who planned the first Hendo Earth Fest represented notable area environmental organizations (Conserving Carolina, Mountain True, Caregivers of Mother Earth, and the Earth Caring Ministry of Trinity Presbyterian Church) and engaged and motivated community members. The proprietor of the Aquarium and Shark Lab by by Team ECCO in downtown Hendersonville and a representative of the Blue Ridge Electric Vehicle Club were instrumental in orchestrating the event. The committee came together to design their mission of joining with others from around the globe to celebrate Earth Day more actively (in its 53rd year). Our purpose was to promote education for all ages on environmental and sustainability practices, inspire action, and renew and expand commitments to protect our planet.
Collaborate with organizations with similar goals
It took extensive collaboration to design and implement a successful event. From community members coming together to gather exhibits and entertainment to coordinating with Public Safety, Public Works, Administration, and the Planning and Downtown departments within the city government. A local marketing company, Summit Marketing, worked with us to produce our banners, yard signs, posters, postcards, and a billboard. Volunteers were gracious to devote time, energy, and resources that made the first Hendo Earth Fest possible.
Create opportunities for science education and networking
Hendersonville residents were eager to participate in the festival. Twenty-eight exhibitors lined the streets with interactive and educational activities. The Pisgah Chapter of Trout Unlimited set up an aquarium with live native brook trout and demonstrated fly tying. The Henderson County Soil & Water Conservation District brought their mobile walk-in interactive education trailer. Bartlett Tree Experts gave away sycamore and oak saplings, the NC Institute for Climate Studies explained various climate trends, the Henderson County Beekeepers exhibited a hive behind glass with the queen identified, and Mountain True gave an E. coli testing demonstration, environmental programs, and a card game. These exhibits were a huge draw, and it was extremely enjoyable to witness the community coming together to celebrate Earth Day 2023.
After months of hard work, it rained with thunder and lightning all night long on event-day – every festival planner’s nightmare - and the morning loomed dark and dreary. Would all our planning come to naught? Miraculously, at 7 a.m. the rain stopped and preparations for the day could begin on Main Street without everyone getting drenched! Although the rain had stopped it was still chilly, cloudy, and blustery. Would anyone show up? By 9:30 a.m., all exhibitors except two had arrived and set up. We were ready! The sun peeped out and folks started to arrive. The entertainment, interactive demos and informative activities attracted around 2,500 visitors!
The Hendo Earth Fest is the epitome of Hendersonville values. A celebration cultivated by its residents with the goal of educating and inspiring others held in the heart of our downtown where families and friends gathered, and kids played. Local organizations provided insightful information and engaging exhibits. The event was the first of many and was a significant accomplishment.