GreenFest: Tales From Beneath The Leaf

July 31, 2014
Lindsay DeMarzo
Howard County Initiatives


GreenFest began long, long ago in a far off land as an idea cooked up in someone’s cubicle on a rainy day in March 2007 (before I arrived in Howard County).  With only a month to plan an Earth Day event, Laura Miller (then of DPW) and Sue Muller (DRP staff) somehow pulled together an event in the parking lot of the Howard County Dorsey building on a spring Saturday in April.  The event included free shredding and had a dozen or so vendors with displays, some free trees and drew an amazing crowd of over a thousand people.  GreenFest was born.

The moment I stepped through the door at Howard County I was named to the team of GreenFest co-chairs and introduced to Laura Miller and Sue Muller.  I had no idea what GreenFest was, what it should be, or what it would become.

Planning for GreenFest 2008 began slowly while I oriented to my new job, but quickly gained steam as vendors started rolling in.  We were filled with ideas and enthusiasm which only grew as the event got closer.  April 5th arrived and while I was somewhat distracted by the thrill of getting to carry a walkie-talkie all day, we were nervous and had no idea what to expect.  Our biggest fear: No one shows up.  Not even our friends whom we begged to attend.  Our second biggest fear: It rains and the outdoor vendors get soaked.  We lucked out – people showed and so did the sun.  Lots of people, in fact.  More than weexpected.  Approximately 1,500 citizens of all ages crammed through the halls of the Glenwood Community Center excited to see all 65 displays and live animals.  GreenFest was now solidified as an annual event.  We did learn that year that even though it was sunny, wind is not a vendor’s friend so we made a note to self: Keep everyone inside next year or provide a lot of rocks for paper weights.

Little did we know that the staff and directors of Howard Community College were at GreenFest 2008 and were so impressed that the next week we received a phone call asking to partner with them to hold GreenFest 2009.  Considering GreenFest 2008 had a waiting list of vendors and we had no idea how we would fit more people into Glenwood, this seemed like a perfect solution.

GreenFest planning became a year-round activity in 2008.  It never slept that summer as we geared up for an even bigger event at HCC.  There were so many new things to plan and figure out – sponsorships, workshops, speakers, how to get people actually doing something that day and get their hands dirty.

GreenFest 2009 and 2010 grew to over 100 vendors and maxed out our space in the Galleria of HCC.  We reached 2,000 attendees who planted trees, built a rain garden with master gardeners outside the Galleria, took home free trees to plant in their yard, learned how to grow vegetables in a container garden, built rain barrels, bought jewelry made of discarded items, learned what to put in their blue recycling bins, signed up for home energy audits and alternative power sources, joined watershed walks and watched children pet snakes, hold owls, and make binoculars to search for bluebirds.

This year we’ve added even more.  We’re collecting new and used bicycles, bike parts and accessories for Bikes For The World. This organization fixes them up and sends them to needy communities throughout the world.  Please search your garage and your neighbors’ garages for old bikes, tires, helmets, bells for the handlebars, etc.  There’s nothing greener than reusing a form of already green transportation.  And while you’re cleaning out your garage (and your neighbors’ garages, too, if you’re really nice) make a pile to bring to our Goodwill Industries, Inc. truck that will also be at GreenFest.  If you haven’t used it or worn it in over a year, chances are slim you’ll use it or wear it next year, but guaranteed someone else will love it.

Also this year Salon Marielle, Ellicott City’s Aveda Concepts Salon, will be hosting a Cut-A-Thon to raise money for American Rivers.  Get a stylish cut for $25 knowing that 100% of your payment is being donated to help America’s waterways.

GreenFest has become a part of my daily life and I hope somehow that results in your daily life being a bit greener too.   I’ll see you April 2, 2011 at the HCC Galleria.

OES Staff