Thirteen Montgomery County groups have joined forces to create the fifth annual GreenFest 2019, “where the county comes together, learns together and takes action together.” The county’s largest environmental event is packed with music and dance performances as well as family-friendly activities and hands-on workshops.
Planners – aka the Green Team — expect 4,000 visitors, twice last year’s attendance, on Sunday, April 28, at the event’s new venue — amid the trails, themed formal gardens and conservatories of Wheaton Regional Park’s Brookside Gardens.
“Each year, we look to improve upon the experience for the attendees, yet still connect them to ways they can move from awareness to action and live a more green, sustainable life to improve our planet and our local environment,” explained Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) planner Ryan Zerbe, who believes he has “been around the longest of the [organizing] committee members.”
“Technically,” said Zerbe, Silver Spring Green founded the festival in partnership with Fenton Street Market and the DEP; it was held in 2012 in the Silver Spring Civic Building and Veterans Plaza. “The event started out as a way to promote green living in the Silver Spring community and educating participants on local solutions, sustainability and climate change,” he added.
Recognizing the similarities between WSSC’s H2OFest and DEP’s Clean Water Summit, the three events were combined to produce the H2O Summit in 2013. Then, “in 2014, organizers noticed they could speak to an even larger audience by expanding the Silver Spring GreenFest countywide and adding the H2O Summit to create what we know as the Montgomery County GreenFest in its ‘official’ fifth year,” Zerbe said.
For 2019, Zerbe said, organizers “felt that combining resources once again might be helpful” and joined forces with Brookside Gardens’ annual Earth Day event. In addition to 80 green exhibitors and vendors, drum circles, an electric vehicle car show, tree climbing and other children’s activities, learning activities in the Brookside Nature Center and workshops in its Visitors Center, the schedule features live musical performances by Bach to Rock, Ocho de Bastos and Andrew Kutt.
“The Legacy Project: Our Lives of Consumption and Waste,” a creation of choreographer Keira Hart-Mendoza, artistic and managing director of Uprooted Dance, premiered at last year’s GreenFest held in Silver Spring’s Jessup Blair Park. The project, initiated in 2017, combines an art installation and dance performances. Both highlight the enormous amount of waste the average individual produces and puts that into the context of the global pollution crisis.
“The first year was a deep-dive research based study and reflection of my own habits, while simultaneously reading literature and current event articles on sustainability,” Hart-Mendoza said.
She proceeded to inventory her own trash. “I was really curious just to see how much and what kinds of stuff I was both consuming and then discarding. The most eye-opening realization was that 90 percent of my waste was food-related,” she said. “The ‘permanent’ remnants of our food purchases were all around me!”
“With all our newfound knowledge” from becoming “active observers of our consumption and waste habits” as well as a county workshop on recycling, Hart-Mendoza and her then-eight dancers, she said, “we started generating movement and dance material based around the different themes that were arising.” They included “Marie Antoinette as a symbol of waste, trash in our oceans, mass production of plastics, challenge in cleaning up our messes and being hindered by our own trash.” The result was a 25-minute piece presented at the 2018 GreenFest. “We used all my own trash to make costumes for the dancers and a set design.”
For this year, Hart-Mendoza adjusted the project. “I wanted to focus more directly on our plastic waste,” she said. Accordingly, Brookside Gardens agreed to accommodate her installation for the whole month of April instead of just one day. She resumed saving her trash and composting food scraps and yard trimmings, and along with collaborator, costume designer and wig maker Margie Jervis – Hart-Mendoza calls her a magician — and Brookside horticulturist Ellen Hartranft, chose Brookside sites for the installation.
“In the Conservatory, we used almost all plastic bags to construct a life-sized Marie Antoinette sculpture. Her dress ‘blends in with her surroundings,’ in that we used green Washington Post bags and grocery/veggie bags,” said Hart-Mendoza. “We wanted to show that although she looks ‘good in that site,’ nothing about her is natural or authentic. Her home (aka the plastics home) is not meant to be embedded within nature, but oftentimes, this is where we find a lot of trash washed up or discarded.”
In the Perennial Gardens, she added, “we are riffing off the song ‘99 Bottles of Beer,’ but instead of beer, we’re referring to plastic bottles of all shapes and sizes… and instead of 99, one million plastic bottles are purchased every single minute globally!”
Uprooted Dance dancers move through the park to give another performance.
Courtesy of Brookside Gardens
Amid the installations, five Uprooted Dance dancers will perform Hart-Mendoza’s choreography, this year split into two separate works. “Some aspects are similar to last year’s performance, and some sections are new,” Hart-Mendoza said. “Due to the large volume of attendees expected this year, Brookside suggested we create two separate performances and pause between the dances so audience members could move locations with enough time.” (11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. at the Perennial Gardens; 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. at the Wedding Gazebo)
Hart-Mendoza used “a wide variety of music, some of it very ‘tongue in cheek.’” For example, she said, “in our Plastic Beach/Ocean scene, we use ‘The Girl from Ipanema’ by Frank Sinatra and “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini’ by Brian Hyland. We also use a drum piece by Steve Reich.
“For the piece performed at the Wedding Gazebo, the music is both Baroque and modern because it’s our Marie Antoinette section. So, we use ‘The Bells of St. Genevieve’ by Marin Marais and then some more contemporary instrumental music by a group called Unkle Ho.”
Along with the plethora of performances and activities at GreenFest, Hart-Mendoza’s installation and choreography represent a fundamental message of the event: “Simple changes in consumption habits can impact how much waste we create.”
The 2019 GreenFest is set for 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, April 28 – rain or shine — at Brookside Gardens, 1800 Glenallan Ave., Wheaton. Admission is free. Brookside will have handicap-only parking on site; festival-goers can park – also free — at the Glenmont Metro Station where complimentary shuttle service will be provided to and from the event. For the schedule of events, visit https://montgomerycountygreenfest.org.