ALTON — This year’s Mississippi Earthtones Festival will keep on truckin’, despite changes to the regular location.
This year’s event, taking place from noon until 10 p.m. Saturday, will be held on Broadway between Langdon and Alton streets in Alton instead of its usual venue, the Liberty Bank Alton Amphitheater.
“We moved to Broadway because we want to ensure that this event will be continue to be free for families to come to,” said Christine Favilla, organizer of the event and representative of the Piasa Palisades Sierra Club.
Sara McGibany serves as co-organizer and is the executive director of Alton Main Street, co-presenter of the festival.
Favilla explained that the event organizers and the amphitheater were “at an impasse” regarding equitable profit-sharing from beverage sales at the event.
Favilla continued, “The new site allows for the organizers to spend less money on … electrical hook-up fees and extra … staff, instead focusing our energy on making sure the event is welcoming, fun and impactful.”
After all, that’s the purpose of the festival, now in its ninth year: “to highlight the importance of rivers in Illinois to residents — for recreation, education, and conservation,” according to organizers.
Favilla’s enthusiasm for the Mississippi is clear as she discusses the river’s ecosystems, its history and its importance to society.
“The Mississippi River is a wonderful resource that we can embrace as we learn about (it),” she said, adding that a period-costumed riverboat captain from the 1800s would be on hand to add to the historical focus.
Visitors to this year’s festival can expect food, drinks, live wind-powered music, children’s activities, opportunities to learn about river conservation and more.
“We start with the Great Mississippi River Clean Up at 9 a.m., then head to the festival site for the day,” Favilla said.
Participants in the River Clean Up must register in advance and will meet at the Alton Public Boat Access Lot, under the Clark Bridge, at 9 a.m., from there taking a free boat ride to clean up trash found along the river’s banks. Afterward, volunteers will receive a free T-shirt and lunch. Thus far, nearly 50 volunteers have registered, and approximately 30 spots remain.
At noon, the festival begins in earnest, when children’s activity booths focusing on river animals, conservation information and games open up shop.
“Dozens of nonprofits, institutions and organizations will have kids’ activities, including macro-invertebrate fun with the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center, (making) solar s’mores and (building) percussion instruments out of recycled materials at the Sierra Club booth,” as well as planting with Community Cultivators and painting a river message with Party on Broadway.
Live music begins at 2 p.m. with Happenstance, followed by River Bend, and winding up with Grateful Dead tribute band and area favorite Jake’s Leg.
The music, Favilla said, will be wind-powered, in keeping with the conservation theme of the event.
“We buy wind credits from Native Energy to offset our carbon footprint for the day,” she said.
Besides the location change, other differences in this year’s festival, according to Favilla, include “a large art installation at the new site, along with some new vendors — some consisting of the local businesses along that stretch of Broadway offering specials for the day.” She also mentioned that historic building tours and sustainable brewery tours will be offered at the festival.
Favilla added that the move has had the “fortuitous side effect” of helping the organizers build relationships with other downtown businesses and organizations.
“Working with the Fraternal Order of the Eagles and Old Bakery Beer Company is new and exciting — they’ve become great partners.”
She added that the two local establishments are contributing “band space, paying for police and security, offering their beers for sale, and donating a portion of their sales back to the event.”
As far as food offerings, the Eagles will be selling domestic beer, hot dogs and hamburgers; the Old Bakery Beer Co. will be selling chili and organic craft beer.
“We can’t say names,” Favilla added mischievously, “but there will be local treats for the sweet tooth in all of us, as well as vegetarian-friendly options including kale salad, chips and salsa, and corn-on-the-cob in the husk.”
Favilla encourages residents to “bring the whole family down to this free event, wander inside the historical buildings and local shops, take a walk across the pedestrian bridge, and do some everyday conservation activities,” and mentioned that attendees might like to bring lawn chairs, hats, sunscreen and smiles.
For information, visit the Facebook page at “EarthtonesFestival.”
Those interested in getting involved in the River Clean Up must pre-register, and can do so at the festival’s registration page: http://www.signupgenius.com/go/20f0b44aaab2aa0ff2-mississippi/.
To learn additional details about the event, visit the Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/497051837139290/
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