An effort that began seven years ago on the Hanna Road campus of Learning Gate Community School, in Lutz, has morphed into an event expected to draw thousands to Tampa’s Lowry Park on April 23 in a festival that pays homage to protecting Mother Earth.
EcoFest is an annual event aimed at raising awareness about the principles of sustainability — ecology, equity and economy.
Learning Gate Community School, the University of South Florida’s Patel College of Global Sustainability and the City of Tampa have joined forces to present the festival, also dubbed as Earth Day Tampa Bay, near the park’s band shell at 7525 North Blvd., in Tampa.
Michele Northrup, who has been event coordinator of EcoFest since its inception, has watched it grow and evolve.
There were 40 vendors and about 500 attendees at the first EcoFest, she said. This year, there are 158 vendors, plus a waiting list of 20. More than 4,000 people are expected to attend.
Parking and admission are free, and there are plenty of free activities, too, Northrup said.
There are plenty of opportunities to learn and have fun, too, she said.
There will be live music, workshops, costumed superheroes, demonstrations, informational booths, green living products and services.
Local artists, green businesses, environmental organizations, alternative health practitioners, renewable energy specialists, and people from organic farms and gardens will be there, too.
“We have some unique vendors. We’ve got some really cool artisans, craftsmen,” Northrup said.
Most of the vendors are local, coming from such communities as Tampa, North Tampa, Wesley Chapel, Carrollwood and South Tampa.
Last year, the festival was set up deliberately to mimic a marketplace, and it’s going to be set up the same way this year, Northrup said.
“Everybody loved that,” Northrup said.
Another highlight will be an agility course, designed by a competitor from the popular television show “American Ninja Warrior.”
There also will be a yoga zone, with different yoga themes throughout the day. And, there will be a drum circle, too.
All four of Tampa’s big attractions — Busch Gardens, Lowry Park, The Florida Aquarium, and MOSI — will be there, Northrup said.
The City of Tampa’s Solid Waste department will be demonstrating how to use plastic bags to make crafts.
Some members of the GFWC Lutz-Land O’ Lakes Woman’s Club will be getting into the act, too. Northrup has invited them to show how plastic grocery store bags can be converted into mats.
To say Northrup is enthused about the event would be an enormous understatement.
“It’s going to be phenomenal,” she said.
Seventh annual EcoFest
Where: Lowry Park, 7525 North Blvd., in Tampa (in the band shell area and across the street)
When: April 23, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
More than 150 vendors, speakers and activities, in a festival aimed at promoting earth-friendly living.
Published April 20, 2016