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Tuesday, January 22 , 2019, 4:46 am | Fair 53º


45th Annual Earth Day Showcases Rare Cars, Local Foods and Throngs of Festival Fans

Alameda Park teems with environmental and energy innovation, including a prototype hydrogen fuel-cell car

The Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival features three stages, with music and dancing for all ages. Click to view larger
The Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival features three stages, with music and dancing for all ages. (Ana Mezic / Noozhawk photo)

[Click here for a related Noozhawk photo gallery.]

This year’s Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival is a hands-on experience with activities for adults, children and teens in every corner of Alameda Park near downtown. The 45th annual festival — with a “Stand Up for Climate” theme — features more than 200 booths, 99 percent of which are regionally sourced within Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties. 

“We were born out of a dirty energy crisis, the biggest oil spill the country had seen at that time,” said Sigrid Wright, assistant director of the Community Environmental Council, host of Earth Day.

“Here we are 45 years later and we are still wrestling with fossil fuels. Though Earth Day has clearly evolved in terms of messaging, solutions and in size, we are still wrestling with the same fundamental problems.”

On Saturday, the two-block Alameda Park at 1400 Santa Barbara St. was bustling with families, couples, young adults and seniors.

A rock climbing wall towered over the park as children attempt to scale it, strapped into harnesses under the hot sun.

The scent of barbecue, sweet corn and other locally sourced foods wafted in the breeze from the food court, over the beer and wine garden, down to the main stage where a crowd of people, young and old, moved to rhythmic reggae music.

Those not dancing, watched with smiles, lounging on the warm grass or perusing the endless number of versatile booths.

The festival sports three smaller stages. At the Roots Stage, a man described how to make earth-friendly cocktails, while a troop of martial arts performers kicked and lunged at each other at the Sports Stage.

The Kids Stage came alive later in the afternoon when Snook the Sloth emerged to lead the gathering of parents and little ones in dance.

A tiny mobile home was set up to show just how much can be done with a small space and recycled materials. It sat beside the largest green car show on the West Coast.

The Toyota hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle looked fairly inconspicuous, nestled among its contemporaries — hybrid and electric cars of every make, model and color that appeared in the Santa Barbara Green Car Show. The prototype FCV is not an average electric car. It can drive for 3,000 miles after just five minutes needed to fuel up, compared to the eight hours currently required by most electric cars on the market.

The Toyota FCV will officially be on the market in the fall.

“This one is a pre-build,” said David Raney, Toyota’s corporate manager of Regulatory Affairs and Powertrain Planning. “We actually trucked it up here. It’s one of 20 production vehicles or prototypes in the United States right now.”

The FCV is an example of new technology in the auto industry evolving as government regulations in California begin requiring the production of zero-emission vehicles.

Newport Beach-based FirstElement Fuel received 12 of the grants that were issued by the California Energy Commission for hydrogen fuel dispensaries. One of those will be in Santa Barbara.

“We’re in the permitting process right now in the city and we hope to be dispensing hydrogen by the end of December,” Raney told Noozhawk. “The fueling station will be near La Cumbre Plaza, across from the Sears.”

Festival attendees were encouraged to look under the hood, climb behind the wheel and ask questions about the rare vehicle.

“We are helping people identify their own personal solutions; helping people identify where to put political pressure,” Wright said. “We have elected officials who hold office hours here, and we also are trying to shift the way that festivals do business.”

“Santa Barbara is known for its festivals. I’m hoping we’re changing a bit of the culture of how to assemble people in a beneficial way, leaving minimal impact on our environment.”

The festival continues Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Noozhawk intern Ana Mezic can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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