By EMILIA ROSALES
MARTINEZ, Calif. – The aroma of cheeseburgers and franks filled the courtyard of the John Muir House in Martinez, as an unexpected crowd of 3,000 people showed up to celebrate Earth Day, recycling, and the birth of a man who has been dead for almost 100 years.
The John Muir Birthday-Earth Day celebration is an annual event in Martinez, with attendee rates increasing every year.
A favorite of the event is the recycled fashion show, where John Swett Elementary students have the opportunity to design an outfit strictly out of recycled materials.
“The dress took me about a week to make and it was very fun and easy,” said Daniela Arenas, a John Swett Elementary fourth grader. “I like making dresses out of recycled things, with my mom.”
Arenas has participated in the recycled fashion show four years in a row. This year she and her mother created a princess gown with a cape out of recycled magazines using home-made glue created with boiling water and flour, to stick it all together.
Live music and fun, educational booths and activities – and John Muir himself, impersonated by Frank Helling – were only half of the other things that took place at the 178th birthday party.
“I have a real passion for the planet and I spend a lot of time out enjoying nature,” said Helling, “and to me, that is my medicine and I just see it disappearing. For me, maybe John Muir is a vehicle in which I can get out and get the message out there that we need to start taking care of this place.”
Booths, ranging from the Contra Costa County Library to the East Bay Regional Park District and Friends of Alhambra Creek wanted attendees leaving with a broader sense of the value of the earth and what we can do on a regular basis to help preserve it for generations to come.
“I hope people walk away with inspiration and hope to want to give back in some shape or form, whether it’s planting a tree or saving a hill,” said Martinez City Councilmember Annamarie Avila Farias. “Whatever it is that inspires people to look around and take a breath and pause for a moment and say, ‘This is worth preserving and this is worth fighting for.’”