YOUNGSTOWN — With a coalition of community leaders, more than 50 green vendors and a nationally recognized keynote speaker, the Grey to Green Festival Sept. 12 is sure to get Youngstown buzzing.
Debra Weaver, one of the event organizers, said this is the second year for the festival, which will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Wick Park on Youngstown’s North Side.
Weaver anticipates many of the festival attendees will be anxious to hear keynote speaker and urban agriculture enthusiast Will Allen.
Allen founded and serves as chief executive officer of Growing Power, headquartered in Milwaukee, Wis., which helps communities build sustainable food systems.
He was recently featured in a New York Times article and received the 2008 MacArthur Fellowship, which awards $500,000 to individuals who have shown originality in their creative pursuits.
Allen will present the history and vision of Growing Power, and he will give advice on growing practices that Youngstown can use for its own urban agriculture and local food production pursuits.
Grow Youngstown, founded by Elsa Higby, was one of the key organizations in engaging Allen to be a part of the festival.
Higby believes Allen will help draw more people to the event, which will aid in increasing awareness about Youngstown’s urban agricultural land development efforts.
So far, Grow Youngstown has developed two community garden projects — the Fairgreen Neighborhood Garden on Youngstown’s North Side and the Unity Garden at Unity Church Centre in Girard.
Higby said the nonprofit organization is dedicated to developing these gardens and identifying similar opportunities in other areas.
“Our focus is to take these vacant properties and turn them into social projects and possibly local market gardens,” she said.
The Grey to Green Festival was started to bring together anyone in and around the Youngstown area who would be interested in the environment and the Youngstown 2010 Plan.
The plan, which began developing in 2002, is the citywide effort to define Youngstown’s role in the regional economy, enhance and improve Youngstown’s quality of life and bring about change.
Environmental initiatives, especially using abandoned homes or vacated lots as green spaces, are a large part of Youngstown 2010.
In addition to Allen’s keynote address, the festival will also feature a nature walk through Wick Park, entertainment from bands and dancers, and an afternoon panel discussion.
Activities for the children include arts and crafts, a visit with Dora the Explorer, and an environmental play by the Magic Carpet Children’s Theater.
Weaver said that she and other collaborators of the event hope that participants will walk away with a lot of new information.
“We’re hoping to increase awareness about green collar jobs, recycling, the climate change and the green initiative,” she said. “We all need to work together toward creating a green belt.”
This video, from the Grey to Green Web site, features Will Allen talking about Growing Power.