Wind, rain undermine Art and Earth Celebration at War Memorial Park

April 16, 2011|By RICHARD F. BELISLE |

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — For the last two years, the annual Art and Earth Celebration at War Memorial Park drew 50 to 70 vendors and more than 1,000 patrons.

This year Mother Nature intervened with cold wind and rain to keep vendors and patrons away.

 By noon Saturday, fewer than 20 vendors and nonprofit groups had set up tables and tents, and some of the vendors were already leaving. None of the scheduled bands showed up, and few patrons could be seen checking out booths under the pavilion or braving the weather outside to visit the tents.

 "Mother Nature is playing with us this year," said Paul Berryhill, the upbeat president of the 46-member ArtBerkeley Inc., the nonprofit artist group that sponsors the festival.

  "We had 55 vendors scheduled this year," Berryhill said. "The bands canceled, because they didn't want to set up their equipment in the rain. We schedule the celebration in April because it's the month of Earth Day."

 S. J. Brown of Martinsburg said the event blends art with nature.

 "The artists here use nature as the inspiration for their work," she said.

 Brown's specialty is wildlife photography, animals and birds in their native habitat. Her table was laden with framed examples of her work.

She finds her subjects in wildlife refuges like the Alligator River Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina, where black bears, bobcats and other creatures congregate. She knows they're there, but her lens has yet to capture the wary red wolf.

"If this was easy, everybody would do it," she said.

 A favorite local haunt is the Sleepy Creek Wildlife Management Area, home to ospreys, timber rattlesnakes "and a lot of bird varieties," Brown said.

 Jen Richmond, a Shepherd University graduate who studied political science and environmental studies, is one of about a dozen members of the newly organized Eastern Panhandle Environmental Council. Free cupcakes sat on her table among the literature available for handout.

 "We're grassroots," Richmond said. "Our first project is starting a community garden in downtown Martinsburg. Local participants will prepare and plant the vegetables, harvest some for their own use and to benefit the fledgling Martinsburg Farmers Market," she said.

 The group also plans to work with the Berkeley County Solid Waste Authority's effort to promote recycling in the county, Richmond said.

 Several authority volunteers were handing out promotional material in a tent across from the pavilion.

 Clint Hogbin said Berkeley County's recycling program "is one of the most comprehensible in the state."

The authority has two large, full-time recycling centers, one on Grapevine Road near Martinsburg and the other on Pilgrim Street in Inwood, plus a small, part-time bin at Eagle Plaza in Hedgesville.

 The volunteers also plan to sell a truckload of plastic composting bins for $45 and rain barrels for $55 in the parking lot of Martinsburg Mall Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

 "There'll be a tractor-trailer with a big banner on it. You won't miss it," Hogbin said

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