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Earth Day festival returns April 22 with new organizer

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By Ky Plaskon

Brighton Denison remembers the moment Earth Day was canceled. 

“I saw it on the This Is Reno Instagram on January 14, 2023,” Denison said.

It spread like wildfire, leaving people wondering what went wrong. But right now, Denison is spending his time not only trying to breathe life back into Earth Day but knocking on news station doors, trying to get them to take down news stories that Earth Day died. 

“If you Google ‘Reno Earth Day,’ you still find posts that it’s canceled,” he said, frustrated.

Despite the uphill battle, he is bringing back Earth Day from near extinction. The event is scheduled for April 22 at Idlewild Park.

“It was just the right time,” he said. 

Taking on the event at such a late stage means an anticipated loss of $20,000 for his company Great American Craft Fairs. He’s anticipating the loss because the company can’t take donations – it is a for-profit company. 

Next year, he said they will consider a non-profit status. For now, Denison said the prestige of running Earth Day is worth the loss.

“This is an event that I have attended every day since middle school, so I have seen it change over the years,” he said. “It is an event I have wanted to take on for the last 5 years. It had faced ups and downs. There were a lot of problems with … I don’t know if ‘sustainability’ is the right word. Let’s say it had problems, ‘being a true Earth Day event’ from the public perception side.”

“It was more of a merchandise fair,” Denison added. “Some of the more sustainable vendors were leaving and not coming back because they decided it was not for them.”

He said the previous event had the same goals to ensure vendors didn’t distribute single-use cups, utensils and styrofoam, but the previous event promoter didn’t have the needed enforcement.

“We will hire staff if we have to,” Denison explained. “That is priority number one: to create a sustainable Earth Day event and we will make sure we do that.” 

If there is any question about his ability to produce sustainable events, consider that his family has been producing the Graeagle Arts and Craft Fair for 52 years.

Not only does he hope to create a sustainable event, but to inform the City of Reno regarding the sustainability of other events too. 

This year, there will be two stages: one for dancing and one for ambient music. Fifteen performances are planned with random acts throughout the day. 

Here is what else is new:

  • Increased focus on education
  • Sustainability incentivized raffle
  • Restrictions on food vendors’ to-go materials
  • Not allowing vendors to distribute any single-use bags, bottles and cups
  • All beverages poured will be sold in a reusable commemorative cup
  • Restrictions on non-sustainable handout items 
  • Distribution of  reusable bags
  • Complimentary RTC and pedicab rides

One of the sustainable elements that is not new is the bike valet. Last year, the non-profit Truckee Meadows Bicycle Alliance and Kiwanis Bike Program handled 400 bikes at the bike valet at the corner of Cowan and Idlewild Drive. 

This year, TMBA is teaming up with Radical Adventure Riders, Kiwanis Bike Program and Reno Bike Project to handle even more bikes. Attendees can also get their bikes checked out or fixed by the Kiwanis Bike Program.

Denison is asking people to do their part: pack their reusable forks, refillable cups, park a mile or two away from Idlewild, and ride or walk to start out Earth Day.

For more information, go to www.RenoEarth.com.

Ky Plaskon is the president of the Truckee Meadows Bicycle Alliance. 

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