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EcoFest: second helping will be delicious

by Stephanie Mahoney

Well I’m sure you’ve heard the terms “Parrotheads” and “Deadheads.” Guess what, now there’s “EcoHeads.”

Los LobosAnd with the official Sedona festival season fast approaching, there is one festival that is quickly making a name for itself. The second installment of the Sedona EcoFest explodes on the Sedona Cultural Park stage, September 15.

This year’s eco-party is sure to please, with its unique blend of performing artists, booths, speakers, clowns on parade, and even live animals. In case you don’t remember, the inaugural Sedona EcoFest included B.B. King, Los Lobos, Merl Saunders, Michelle Branch, Walt Richardson and A LOT of rain!

Although the weather at last year’s EcoFest was a bit disappointing, it didn’t dampen the spirits of those who attended and actually helped to put the first time event on the map. This year, the BeneFest Foundation (Philip Walker, Peter Carlson and Jeff Teele) moved the event to mid September to avoid another cold and wet day.

“Last year was definitely a learning experience, but we have worked really hard to improve on last year’s show.” said Executive Director Philip Walker. “Since the first EcoFest we have been fortunate enough to create many new positive relationships with sponsors and community organizations, which has made a tremendous difference.”

The Sedona EcoFest is a performing arts event that promotes ecological education and responsible outdoor ethics. Quite simply, the Sedona EcoFest was started as a celebration in honor of what Northern Arizona is know for, ITS NATURAL BEAUTY.

“Since most people come to Sedona and the surrounding area to enjoy the scenery and the outdoor activities, we felt that it would be nice to have a festival that promotes the area and brings about community pride,” Walker said.

“In addition to the music, we wanted to include outdoor education so that people could have an opportunity to learn how to take a proactive role in taking care of our outdoor world for future generations to enjoy. We feel strongly that since so many people make a living in Sedona off the tourists that come to see the incredible natural beauty that it would only make sense to have an event that celebrates what makes our community famous.”

The promotors believe that Sedona is the best place in the world to have an event that promotes ecological education. Furthermore, they wanted to create an event that worked in conjunction with the theme of the Sedona Cultural Park: performing arts, education and the environment.

 So far it looks like a winning formula. Last year, the Sedona EcoFest won the endorsement of the City of Sedona, Sedona-Oak Creek Canyon Chamber of Commerce, the Sedona Cultural Park, and other fine organizations such as Patagonia, Earth Share, The Wilderness Society and National Geographic.

In addition to the wide variety of music and vendors there will be other new additions to the 2001 festival. These include an environmental award, a theme (Endangered Species and Open Spaces), an “Eco-Exhibition Area,” and a benefit dinner. The dinner will include an auction, raffle, a guest speaker (Julia “Butterfly” Hill) as well as music, provided by Limbs Akimbo. One of the auction items will be a brand new Ibanez acoustic guitar, signed by B.B. King and Willie Nelson. Event sponsors, as well as local celebrities will attend, and the community is invited.

 The musical line-up is again looking to be a strongpoint at the festival this year. It includes reggae, bluegrass and blues. At press time, the lineup includes Third World, Yonder Mountain String Band, and Merl Saunders and The Rainforest Band. The amusing “Living Folklore Medicine Show” will be returning as well as environmental celebrity Julia “Butterfly” Hill. And there are still acts to be announced.

“We work really hard to have a high quality and diverse musical lineup so as to offer something for everyone,” said associate director Peter Carlson. “Good music makes for a great party and the people attending deserve to have a great time. Combining entertainment and education is really what it’s all about.”

Third World is a world-renowned reggae  band that has been together for more than 20 years. The Yonder Mountain String Band is one of the most popular up-and-coming bluegrass acts in the country and just recently headlined the Telluride Bluegrass Festival where The String Cheese Incident got its start.

Jam band favorite Merl Saunders was a big crowd pleaser at the inaugural Sedona EcoFest and will returning to perform his unique style of funky blues in 2001. Julia “Butterfly” Hill received international notoriety and fame from a two year long “tree sit” atop a giant redwood tree, called Luna, in an attempt to help make the world more aware of the plight of ancient forests. It was a successful campaign as she was instrumental in negotiating to permanently protect the 1,000-year-old tree and several surrounding acres of ancient forests.

Since coming down from Luna, Julia has been busy speaking at various public events and colleges to standing-room-only crowds. She has also been featured on the “Today” show with Katie Couric, CNN, NBC Nightly News, ABC Evening News, NBC Dateline as well as USA Today, Newsweek, People and Time Magazine.

If last year was any indication, Sedona EcoFest 2001 is sure to be a unique, fun and interesting event for a great cause. So keep your eyes out for the Magic EcoBus and get your dancing shoes (or mountain boots!) ready for a grand party in celebration of the great outdoors.

“EcoHeads” unite!

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