For the past 45 years, spring has meant not only the return of green leaves and new flowers, but also the celebration of Earth Day. Ever since the first Earth Day took place in 1970, April 22 has become a day to raise awareness of the importance of preserving our environment. Mechanicsburg has been holding its own Earth Day celebrations each April, and this year it will hold its seventh annual celebration on April 18, rain or shine.
I grew up and began to raise a family in a time and a place where it was easy to organize a block party. It was not a problem to get 25 adults and countless kids to wrangle brooms, rakes, and trash bags to clean the neighborhood. After a few hours of work, and some time spent leaning on shovels, we’d drink tea, eat hot dogs, lean on the shovels some more, and wait for the trash truck to arrive and remove the product of our efforts. In my experience, Earth Day at that time was as much a frame of mind as it was a day on the calendar. Earth Day was whenever and wherever a bunch of folks could spare an hour or two.
To me, formal Earth Day celebrations always seemed more like a tribal and seasonal happening than the product of a movement. The way I experienced it, Earth Day was communal grooming; both of the land and its inhabitants. That communal element sure seems missing today.
These days, our tribe more likely forms around school, sports, work, and professional endeavors. Sadly, the people we care about and who care about us are not likely to be neighbors. It’s not surprising when I think about it now; organizing Earth Day events is more easily done among folks we work with than the people who share the shade and fallen leaves of a backyard tree.
Earth Day, Our Town, Mechanicsburg
Much as Jubilee Day seems like a multi-tribal event, Earth Day in Mechanicsburg looks like a Street Fair with an environmental theme. Nothing gets cleaned up, although a lot of effort goes into making sure the area is not messed up. You may not run into too many of your neighbors, though you’ll likely see folks from your other tribes. You will be invited to like the Mechanicsburg tribe in a high-touch, low-tech way as you explore the theme of environmental innovation and celebrate the return of spring.
How it Happens
Attracting people to the Mechanicsburg downtown is the mission of the Mechanicsburg Downtown Partnership (DMP). Wine walks, First Friday’s and similar events are regular offerings organized by the DMP’s Foot Traffic Committee. (Jubilee Day, though an iconic downtown event, is not organized by the DMP.) With financial support from the DMP to pay for street closing and some auction items, Earth Day in Mechanicsburg has grown to be a kaleidoscope of vendors and organizations with environmental genes in their DNA.
Though she’d be quick to deflect credit, much of the organization, recruitment, and execution for Mechanicsburg’s Earth Day is thanks to the good efforts of Susanna Brill of the Rosemary House on Market Street. Susanna has gained plenty of seasoning from organizing events at the Rosemary House and helping her sister Nancy do the same for the Sweet Remembrances Tea Room, which is right next door.
Until we erect that dome over the downtown, outside events share the same risk as weddings in the park. Past performance does not assure future returns. That said, if the weather cooperates like it did last year, you can expect an event that rivals Jubilee Day, the town’s largest event.
What can you expect to see? Well, let’s begin with the end—green funeral services. You can ask our downtown funeral director, Bob Buhrig (Myers-Buhrig Funeral Home and Crematory), about what a typical green service might look like. You can see a preview of that service because Buhrig usually has an environmentally friendly wicker casket on display at the corner of Main and Market. You might expect to find the baby Moses in such a container. Those kids who peer in curiously might end up getting some candy from Bob.
But spring is the season of beginnings, and there will be plenty of plants and seeds available, as well as advice on how to get them started if you need some encouragement.
Back when Earth Day began in 1970, one of its main themes was water quality. All these years later, quantity has become the issue. Interestingly, people in Central Pennsylvania sometimes have to deal with too little water—and sometimes too much. The Yellow Breeches Watershed Association and United Water Company will be on hand to help folks learn how they can go with the flow.
Maybe you have a fleet of beaters like I do, but the much vilified automobile has gotten considerably greener in recent years. Everybody can relate to cars. We must have come a long way if automobiles have become a centerpiece of Earth Day. Visitors to Mechanicsburg’s Earth Day will also find out if it’s possible to build a car out of sugar. (Spoiler alert: Yes, you can.)