On April 23 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., hundreds of attendees gathered at Fremont’s new Downtown Event Center & Plaza for the City and Washington Hospital Healthcare System’s (Washington Hospital) annual Earth Day celebration. White canopy tents, filled with educational environmental-themed booths, sprawled across the lawn with the relaxing tunes of Earth Day-themed pop hits playing in the background. Inside the event center, two other rooms were packed full of presentations by local clubs and organizations such as the Alameda County Water District and the Urban Forest Friends on topics ranging from local produce and water preservation to reusable crafts and tree plantings.
In sunny and breezy weather, the event opened with a highly anticipated bike rodeo. Professional bikers and mechanics from Bike East Bay spent the morning teaching young children bike safety features such as the air, brakes, chain (ABC) check at an obstacle course in the parking lot. Other participants wandered around the booths, donating to collection drives and learning about topics including recycling, infrared light, emergency preparation, and electric cars while playing spin-the-wheel games to earn prizes like stickers and muffin recipes. Volunteers passionately presented their projects and pitched their organizations, giving advice to curious visitors on ways to live greener and protect the Earth. “[They] showed kids the different ways to collect the recycling and explained [it to] the kids in a fun way so that it’s easy for the kids to understand,” Attendee Sathya Vasudevan said. “Listening to those things from experts was a really good takeaway.”
Enjoying ice cream sundaes from MisterSoftee and pizza from deaf-owned pizzaria Mozzeria on the lawn, participants laughed merrily to
the live performances from Doug Nolan and Martin and the Green Guitar. Martin played Earth Day-themed renditions of popular songs, each with a different lesson on how to take care of the Earth, and Doug performed several magic tricks and a juggling show while telling a story about reducing waste.
Continuing their almost decades-long tradition, Washington Hospital and the City of Fremont collaborated to host this event after two years of cancellations due to the pandemic. With COVID-19 and the new location, planning this year’s event presented unique challenges. “[This year], we had to start from scratch,” Director of Washington Hospital’s Green Initiative and Fremont Environmental Sustainability Commission Member Paul Kelley said. “We weren’t sure when we started on the layout what COVID was going to be like [in terms of] how many [booths] outside, how many inside … We worked closely with our infection control people on that.” The planning committee collaborated with the city’s street department and parks department as well to further ensure the event’s success.
In the future, Fremont Environmental Specialist and Co-planner Geno Uliana hopes to see more interactive and inclusive events, as well as additional participation and involvement with local nonprofits. “My favorite thing in planning for the event is knowing that we bring many families together [for them to] have a good time and learn about the environment,” Uliana said.
At the end of the fair, as volunteers cleaned up their booths and as participants walked away with free trinkets and pamphlets in hand, many expressed their newfound motivation and appreciation for environmental protection. “When it comes to Earth Day, it’s about building the capacity and the skills and resources to help share and preserve our Earth for the future generations,” Fremont Mayor Lily Mei said at the fair. “[This fair] is a good example of how we bring together ideas, whether it’s from our youth, from our business leaders, [or] from our community members … to rebuild and recover and restore.”