4/18/2011 - Asheville Earth Day festival has fitness theme
by Barbara Blake
Asheville is celebrating Earth Day! This isn't something new for our fair city - Asheville and Buncombe County have always been on the forefront of sustainability and re-use/recycling. Did you know that Buncombe County was the first county in North Carolina to enact a ban on cardboard disposal - in 1989! Saturday sounds like a great opportunity for the young - and young at heart - to learn about their roles in the future of our good Earth!
ASHEVILLE -- There was a lot to learn about environmental sustainability, renewable resources, organic foods and other topics you'd expect to encounter at the city's annual Earth Day celebration Saturday in Pack Square Park.
But who knew you can get a full-body, cardio workout by using a colorful hoop as a jump rope or spinning it around your waist, arms, neck and legs?
"Hooping is kind of like fitness in disguise," said Melanie MacNeil, founder of Asheville Hoops, which makes and sells hoops and teaches classes and workshops on performance hooping.
"It's fun, but it's definitely core-strengthening, and you can get a great cardio workout depending on where on your body you're hooping," MacNeil said as she watched dozens of children and adults happily gyrating inside their hoops in the Kids Village on the west side of the park.
"It's something families can do outdoors together, and it's universal -- everybody sees a hoop and knows what to do," she said.
The hooping booth was part of the YMCA Healthy Kids celebration, which joined with Earth Day organizers to combine the two events in downtown's newest public gathering spot.
The partnership was a no-brainer, said YMCA membership director Lindsey Sease.
"Our focus is on healthy living, youth development and social responsibility - we're more than just a swim-and-gym," she said.
"What better way to amplify our cause than by affiliating with Earth Day?"
Bethany Johnson brought her 4-year-old son, Ethan, to the two celebrations.
They had a picnic on the green space in front of the courthouse before moving up to the Kids Village for games, face painting and demonstrations of taekwondo, kids ballroom dancing, juggling and other activities to keep children moving.
"He's really active at this age, but I'd like it if he could find some kind of organized thing he likes that he can do as he gets older," Johnson said. "It kind of worries me that as kids get older, they seem to get less active."
The Earth Day celebration, which included a nonstop roster of speakers, live music and rows of vendors and product representatives, drew a diverse crowd that ranged from veteran environmentalists to out-of-town tourists.
Nancy Sellers, of Greenville, S.C., was both.
"I've been a vegetarian for more than 35 years," Sellers said proudly, adding that she is "in my 70s."
She was here visiting a friend for the weekend and came to the Earth Day event to see the new park and the people within it.
"I'm glad to see these kids are catching up," she said with a smile.
Staff members of longtime eco-friendly organizations said events like Earth Day serve to keep sending the message about environmental stewardship and the perils facing the planet, even though change may be slower in coming than they'd like.
"We're not looking for the big payback -- we want people to build stewardship over time, in small increments," said Eric Bradford, clean community coordinator for Asheville GreenWorks, which organized as Quality Forward in 1976.
"If every time we do something like (Earth Day) we reach even one person, we're happy," he said.
Kelly Fain, marketing director for the French Broad Food Co-op, which opened in 1975, said she's happy for any opportunity to bring environmental issues to the forefront, and not just on Earth Day.
"It takes all of us living it every day, not just one day of the year," Fain said. "We've got to walk the talk, every day."