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Shepherd hosts Earth Daytona

April 17, 2000|By BRUCE HAMILTON

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W. Va. - What do you get when you cross a college campus with an environmental festival?

Music, politics and adults racing tricycles: Earth Daytona 2000.

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The event was born last year with an attempt to promote alternative transportation at Shepherd College. A group of students there tried to create a community bike program.

"We have a big parking problem on campus," explained John Swift, president of Shepherd Environmental Organization, which is less than three years old and includes some 25 members.

SEO promoted bikes to reduce fuel consumption and emissions and fixed up old ones to be used again. But it couldn't buy enough bikes to get the program rolling. "We just didn't have the money," Swift said.

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But Earth Daytona continues to evolve. This year's event boasted participation from 22 environmental organizations and performances from a roster of bands, including Clutch. Ken Hechler, West Virginia's secretary of state, was the event's featured speaker.

In contrast to last year's cold rain, Sunday's scene was bright and warm. By 1 p.m. Sunday, attendance had already surpassed last year's total of 300, according to Swift. He predicted a "phenomenal" showing.

Students lolled on the lawn in front of the Robert C. Byrd Science and Technology Center, where rotating bands played on stage. Vendors were notably absent and no crafters hawked their wares.

Smithfresh Meats was the only food seller, offering all-natural products from a free-range farm and veggie chili. Volunteers in tented booths offered information from West Virginia Rivers Coalition and other environmental groups.

"I think it's great," said Dorris Headden of Martinsburg. She picked up so many pamphlets and brochures she had to put them in her car. "I grabbed bundles of it," she said.

Being old enough to remember the original Earth Day, held in 1971, put Headden in the minority Sunday. But a new generation of activists showed they share the same concerns.

Margaret Gray, a Shepherd sophomore, was busy handing out sheets from the League of Conservation Voters, a coalition of 20 "green" groups. The LCV watches how elected representatives vote on environmental issues and rates their performance.

Last summer, Gray attended "Political Skills to Protect the Environment," a summer training academy sponsored by the league.

"It really had a big effect on me and how I viewed the political system," she said. "If you want to make a difference, you have to get involved."

Visitors to Earth Daytona could find out how their senators voted on mining waste disposal or whether they supported the Endangered Species Act. They could see some endangered or protected species at a nearby display manned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

They could listen to the Tim Coyle Trio cover Paul Weller's "I Didn't Mean To Hurt You." They could get a homeowner's guide for installing a sewage disposal system or find out how to make their back yards more welcoming to birds.

Birds of prey sat on perches under a tarp nearby, including a red-tailed hawk and an American kestrel. Sharpsburg resident Frank Galvin said he enjoys showing the birds, which he helped rehabilitate.

Galvin has special permits to keep the birds, all of which were injured. "Bert," the hawk, was blind. The falcon's wing was damaged in a hawk attack. "Bill," a great-horned owl, injured his optical nerve when a car struck him.

Some of the wildlife at the event was human, as kids cavorted on the green. "The kids are enjoying it," said Kathryn Burns, who came with her nieces and nephews. Burns, of Sharpsburg, said the festival's environmental message is positive.

"Anything that promotes awareness in that direction is great," she said.

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