Some came in costumes: There were butterflies, elephants and octopi. Some people played trash instruments: There were drums constructed from buckets, trumpets built out of bottles and guitars forged from old shoeboxes. Others wore tie-dye and outfits made out of tarp. There was an eclectic and noisy crowd Saturday in South Park, as several hundred people stopped by to participate in the festivities at Lawrence’s 12th annual Earth Day Celebration.
Saturday’s event kicked off with a parade, with participants trooping down Massachusetts Street until they landed at South Park. Among those in the parade were Kansas University seniors Monica Melhem and Neil Goss who represented KU Environs and the Educational Creative Outreach Committee.
Goss and Melhem dressed in caveman-inspired outfits constructed from recyclable materials, mud decals painted on their faces. They carted a collection of trash — egg cartons, beer cans and soda bottles — around with them.
“The concept is your trash follows you wherever you go, and everyone has to pull the weight,” Melhem said. “We’re supposed to represent the people who live off the land but still have to deal with the consumer waste and toxicity that society brings. Most of it is KU recycling, and it will be recycled again.”
Melhem and Goss hoped the visual presentation would remind people of the strong link between trash and consumer.
Other groups presented less ominous messages, such as “give peace a chance.” John Lennon’s anti-war anthem rolled from the stereo of a white truck leading a trailer bed filled with smiling children.
“The kids make it so happy and colorful,” said Lauretta Hendricks-Backus, of the Lawrence Coalition for Peace and Justice. It’s the group’s sixth year participating in the parade. “It’s really fun to ride in (the parade). It’s a Lawrence classic thing to do here.”
After the parade, several groups and businesses were set up at South Park, offering information, activities and, in some cases, free vegan food. Probably the most popular sight of the day was The Recycle Cycle, a colorful car constructed from recyclables and laden with junk; pots, pans, chimes, bicycle horns, bells, and empty cans of stewed tomatoes and creamed corn protruded from the pedal car.
“This is made out of recyclable goods, trash and things you would find under a kid’s bed when you clean out their room,” said Richard Renner, the entertainer who spent a winter hunkered in his garage building the car 15 years ago. “It looks fun, so I let the kids play with it and it becomes fun.”
Renner hauls the Recycle Cycle all over the country, but he especially loves attending Lawrence’s annual Earth Day Celebration.
“(The celebration) pulls in a wide diversity of business,” Renner said. “And it’s local, so I can pedal the car straight here.”