Thousands turned out for the sixth annual EcoFest at the picturesque setting of Lowry Park.
This year’s event had the feel of a farmer’s market and that was intentional, said Michele Northrup, an event organizer from Learning Gate Community School.
The charter school, located in Lutz, has spearheaded the event since its inception.
As its name implies, the festival celebrates efforts to make the earth more sustainable by promoting energy conservation, environmental protection and healthy living practices.
The event initially took place on the grounds of the school in Lutz, but it outgrew that location.
This year, the event was on April 18 and was presented by the school, the City of Tampa and the University of South Florida’s Patel College of Global Sustainability.
Festival-goers checked out entertainment and educational presentations near the band shell at Lowry Park, 7525 N. Boulevard, and browsed through a wide assortment of vendors on the park grounds across the street from Lowry Park Zoo.
The event gave people a chance to begin celebrating Earth Day — officially April 22 — a bit early.
There were 167 vendors at the event this year, which is a record, according to Northrup. It’s also a sizable jump from last year, when there were 118.
Event-goers could pick up foods from organic farms, buy healthy pet treats, pick up some local honey, grab a bite from some food trucks or enjoy organic popcorn.
There were loads of speakers and entertainers, too.
Amanda Renaud, of Topsy Turvy, an entertainment group, strolled on stilts through the festival, towering above the crowd and flashing a bright smile.
Samantha Petrone, who played the character Ariel from The Little Mermaid, had to be carried across North Boulevard, to be placed in her spot beneath a tree.
She and other members of the Much Foundation, of Tampa, attracted attention from fascinated children and parents snapping photos of their youngsters, posing with the characters.
Last year, the event was selected as the “Best Community Event” by the U.S. Green Building Council.
Northrup was clearly enthused, as people continued streaming into the event this year.
“We made the event bigger and better than ever,” she said.
Published April 22, 2015