The third Blue Rain ECOfest adds an environmental component to ArtsWeek
By Lorna Oppedisano
Let it rain: Rain barrels such as these will be distributed free to city residents who participate in a workshop during the upcoming Blue Rain ECOfest.
Kermit the Frog got it right: It’s not easy being green. Let’s face the facts. The economy is a rough one.
The world is a busy place and learning about sustainability is not in the front of your mind, especially if you’ve got a family. And being green isn’t always the best thing for your wallet, at least in the short term.
But what Kermit doesn’t know about is the Blue Rain ECOfest, a three-day event designed by the folks at Jazz Central to bring attainable sustainability to Central New York. “The Blue Rain ECOfest is a familyoriented sustainability fest, the first one for Central New York,” says Martin Walls, communications director of Jazz Central. “Organizations can truly interact with families and the general public.”
The event is being held in conjunction with Syracuse ArtsWeek, from Friday, July 29, to Sunday, July 31, and is located at the City Hall Commons Atrium. It is free.
For these three days, Central New Yorkers are invited to participate in events such as a municipal roundtable on sustainability hosted by the city of Syracuse, GreeningU- SA’s Sustainability Academy, and Onondaga County’s Rain Barrel Workshops. There will also be local vendors and food, as well as live entertainment.
Blue Rain ECOfest began three years ago as a “family-friendly outreach event for local green organizations and businesses, for three reasons,” says Walls. “There really was a need in the market for a family-oriented sustainability event coming from large organizations such as Syracuse Center of Excellence, National Grid and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Second is that there was a need to link the two major parts of ArtsWeek together, and Blue Rain ECOfest literally does that by being physically situated between those two events. And the third is the spirit of collaboration: lots of kinds of vendors and organizations coming together to push an agenda on sustainability.”
Over the years, Blue Rain ECOfest has evolved from a twoday event to this year’s jam-packed three days. “The most important evolution this year,” Walls says, “is that we have a national sustainability organization that happens to be local putting on some family-oriented education.” Interestingly, this national organization is based right here in the Salt City.
That organization is Greening USA, which advocates for sustainable communities in an attempt to benefit local economies and environments. On Saturday, July 30, during the Blue Rain ECOfest, Greening USA will present at Sustainability Academy, during which people tour different educational stations with a passport and get it stamped. When they complete the tour, after learning about things such as energy, transportation, water and food, they qualify for prizes.
“Greening USA has hosted the Sustainability Academy at schools before,” says Carissa Matthews, TK, “but we were looking for a new audience, and thought this would be a great way to partner with the Blue Rain ECOfest. It’s a great way to revitalize the ECOfest. It’s been missing the opportunity in the past to have educational programming.”
In addition, city residents are invited to join in the Rain Barrel Workshops on Sunday and take home a rain barrel as part of the ongoing Save the Rain initiative. “Because it’s ArtsWeek, people have the opportunity to paint the barrels,” says Matthews. Only city
residents are eligible for the barrels, however, since the city is where the combined sewer overflows create a rush of untreated water flowing into Onondaga Lake after large rainstorms.
Restaurants surrounding the festival will be involved as well. “I’ve spoken to everyone personally, and they will be featuring what they call the Blue Rain Menu,” says Larry Luttinger, executive director of Jazz Central. A bonus is that the food and drinks will be organic and locally sourced.
Kermit would approve.
Schedule of Events Friday, July 29 3 to 6 p.m.: Municipal roundtable on sustainability, hosted by the city of Syracuse 6 to 8 p.m.: Spotlight on green initiatives in the city of Syracuse; sustainable video showcase
Saturday, July 30 Noon to 6 p.m.: Greening USA’s Sustainability Academy 1 p.m.: Trash to cash showcase 2, 3 and 4 p.m.: Readings of children’s book Sheila Says We’re Weird (Tilbury House, 2011), by Ruth Ann Smalley 6 to 8 p.m.: Sustainable video showcase
Sunday, July 31 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.: Rain barrel workshops by Onondaga County’s Save the Rain program 3:30 p.m.: “How to Go Green in the ‘Cuse,” a green infrastructure seminar
For more information, visit www.bluerainecofest.org or call 479-5299.