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Garlic and Arts Fest emphasizes environmental education

  • A wireframe globe at the North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival was decorated with strips of fabric stating visitors’ hopes for environmental changes. STAFF PHOTO/MAX MARCUS

  • Signs like this were posted around the North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival for children to write their ideas of how to improve our environmental impact. STAFF PHOTO/MAX MARCUS

Staff Writer
Published: 9/29/2019 11:52:28 PM

ORANGE — The emphasis on environmental responsibility at the North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival was specially extended to the younger visitors this year.

Outside the kids’ tent, a sign was posted with pictures of wild animals and natural landscapes, and slogans like “Plastic not fantastic,” and “We deserve clean air and water.”

This was the “clean air and water” sign. Four others around the festival grounds had other topics — “healthy food,” “access to nature,” “climate and community resiliency” and “sustainable environment.”

The idea was for kids to find the signs and stick notes on them with ideas of how that specific aspect of our relationship with the environment could be improved, said Nina Wellen, the festival organizer who coordinated the kids’ activities.

Many of the ideas were commonplace, like “turn off the lights,” or “compost” — “all that great stuff that’s good for the planet,” Wellen said.

But hopefully, she said, kids would learn things from the festival itself — which is known for having a theme of environmental responsibility and sustainability — and apply them to their own lives.

“This is a mini-community,” Wellen said. “We want people to understand that, and bring it back to support their own local communities.”

If kids dutifully found all the signs, they would be led to the festival’s “Portal to the Future,” an area that showcases practical applications of renewable energy sources like solar power.

There they would find a wireframe globe, at least five feet in diameter, decorated with strips of fabric. The strips were attached by visitors at the festival, who each wrote their own hopes for a better environmental future on their strip before attaching it, explained Jance Kurkoski, a festival organizer and member of North Quabbin Energy, a group mostly made up of members of the municipal energy committees. Kurkoski is on the Warwick Buildings and Energy Committee.

“When people talk about climate change and climate crisis, it’s depressing. So let’s talk about what we can do, instead of what we can’t,” Kurkoski said. “Especially for young people, who could just throw up their hands.”

The globe was popular with both adults and kids, Kurkoski said.

At a nearby booth, kids would spin a wheel for an environmental trivia question — which their tour of the signs should have prepared them for. The questions were open-ended, focusing on what improvements kids could make in their own lives in the five categories of the signs, said Colby O’Connel, who is a senior at Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School. “I’m a machinist, but here I’m a political activist,” he said.

The participation prize for the trivia game was a voucher to make and decorate a reusable cloth bag at another booth, O’Connel said.

Wellen said that these ideas were new this year, and may be revised for next year’s festival. For instance, the five signs posted around the festival grounds may have been more understandable if they had been posted nearby to one another, so that they could be taken in all at once, she said.

Reach Max Marcus at or 413-772-0261 ext. 261.

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