Wilmington Earth Day is localizing the April holiday as a time to teach community members about stewardship and sustainability with a focus on clean water and environmental education.
Each year, the festival theme highlights a local environmental issue.
For 2014, “Clean Water Starts Here” will help attendees understand how everyone can do his or her own part to keep waterways clean for future generations.
The Saturday, April 26 event will be held at Hugh MacRae Park from noon to 6 p.m.
Elissa Riley, co-chair of the Earth Day Alliance, said organizers are expecting 5,000 to 6,000 people to attend the free event.
“The No. 1 pollutant in the city of Wilmington is bacteria from pet waste that gets into the waterways, and that’s why a lot of the local waterways are closed to shellfish harvesting, because the water is polluted and impacts the animals that live there,” Riley said. “If humans were to eat these animals they would get sick, so that’s why the marine fisheries close a lot of the local waterways.”
City code enforcement officers will be on hand during the festival to talk about city ordinances requiring residents to carry pet disposal waste bags to pick up after their pets.
Among the exhibitors, there will be Wilmington Vegan, City of Wilmington stormwater services, the Nature Conservancy and two electric converted cars by the Topsail Island High School Electric Vehicle Team.
Marie Hemmen, senior environmental health specialist with the New Hanover County Environmental Health Department, will be at the festival for the first time giving residents information about how to reduce the mosquito populations in their own backyards.
“A lot of people don’t know where mosquitoes come from and they mistake other species for mosquitoes,” Hemmen said.
The biggest tip is to get rid of standing water, because mosquitoes can breed in water standing for as little as five days or one-fourth of an inch deep.
Hemmen encourages neighbors to work together, including both homeowners and business owners, to help reduce mosquito populations.
About 80 percent of the department’s phone calls about mosquitoes are for Asian tiger mosquitoes. She will have mosquito larvae on display to show what they look like.
“I believe that there are a lot of things people can do in their own backyards,” Hemmen said. “…If they have low areas in their backyard, they can plant rain gardens or native plants.”
Aside from creating an environment that protects against mosquitoes, there are also natural mosquito repellents, like citronella, oil of lemon eucalyptus and, soon to be on the market, catnip oil.
In addition to festival exhibitors, there will also be a Kids’ EcoZone, food vendors and live music, featuring The Clams at noon, Cosmic Groove Lizards at 2 p.m. and Funck & Disorderly at 4 p.m.
“It’s a really good way for people to learn about some local environmental issues and find out ways they can get involved,” Riley said.