Earth Day celebrated in and around Modesto

Earth Day marks its 40th anniversary April 22, but there are public opportunities to celebrate our planet as early as today, when Riverbank holds its fourth annual Beyond Earth Day festival. Also coming up are Modesto's Earth Day in the Park event April 17, activities at Modesto Junior College on Wednesday and, on Earth Day itself, a student-led celebration at Sonora High School. Here's a look at what each has to offer:

BEYOND EARTH DAY -- The free event at Jacob Myers Park begins at 10 a.m. with a magic show and continues until 4 p.m. with musical performances by Luna J and Tara Tinsley, a family fun walk (registration starts at 9 a.m.), interactive exhibits, a giveaway of tree seedlings and tomato plants, and more.

Goodwill will have a donation center to collect gently used clothing and e-waste. Other attractions at Beyond Earth Day include a farmers market, a Friends of the Riverbank Library book drive, a giveaway of reusable shopping bags and a tap-water taste challenge. After the "H2O Splash-off" at last year's Beyond Earth Day, in which Riverbank tap water was pitted against French and American bottled water in a blind taste test, City Manager Rich Holmer wrote to The Bee that "attendees selected Riverbank tap water by a 2-to-1 margin."

Jacob Myers Park is at 23653 S. Santa Fe Road. For more information, call Norma Torres-Manriquez at Riverbank City Hall, 863-7153.

EARTH DAY IN THE PARK -- New this year are a Boyett Petroleum "B Green" recycling event and a bike corral to encourage people to cycle to the Graceada Park event.

Boyett has joined the city's adopt-a-park program and holds quarterly "B Green" collection days at its Cruisers station on McHenry Avenue, said Beverly McCullough, Modesto's recycling program coordinator. For this quarter, the event has been moved to Earth Day in the Park, where Boyett will offer free paper shredding and e-waste and CRV bottle collection. The "B Green" station will be at the north end of the park along Stoddard Avenue.

"All the stuff they collect, they cash in," McCullough said, "and let's say they get $500, Boyett Petroleum matches that, so $1,000 goes to the adopt-a-park program."

The bike corral, which will be in the swimming-pool area at Graceada, was the brainchild of the Stanislaus County Bicycle Club, which will guard the bikes and staff an information booth. "We're really encouraging people to ride their bikes this year," McCullough said. Valley Sporting Goods has donated more than 200 $25 gift certificates, she said, and people who bike to Earth Day in the Park can fill out a slip at the bike corral to be entered into drawings to win one.

Usual event attractions are back: "green" information booths, vendors, kids rides and bounce houses, food vendors, free kids crafts and entertainment. "We've got belly dancers, bands, the Ripon police pipe band is back, there will be martial arts demonstrations," McCullough said. One musical group she thinks will be particularly entertaining is called the Bad Goods and sings cute songs about vegetables, the environment, littering, etc. "They're very fun."

Earth Day at the Park is in its 21st year. Entertainment and fun activities always have been a draw, said McCullough, "but more and more people are coming for environmental education." She's had people show her photos of little tree seedlings they were given 20 years ago at Earth Day in the Park that now stand tall in their yards. "I love hearing those stories. We also get a lot of teachers looking for ideas to share with their classes, or students whose teachers give extra credit if they go and report on what they've learned."

The free event runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 17. Graceada Park is at Needham Street and Sycamore Avenue. For more information, call McCullough at 577-5495.

EARTH DAY AT MODESTO JUNIOR COLLEGE -- Wednesday's free event, in the quad areas of the East Campus, 435 College Ave., will include information about how to green your commute, garden, office, dinner table and community. There also will be children's activities, including science demonstrations, a solar telescope, seed planting and arts projects. It is sponsored by the Civic Engagement Project -- Project Green and runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

For more information or to bring a display or activity to the MJC Earth Day celebration, contact biology professor Elizabeth McInnes, who is coordinating it, at or 575-6299.

EARTH DAY AT SONORA HIGH SCHOOL -- The April 22 celebration runs from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. and includes live music, yoga demonstrations, local food vendors and activities for all ages. It is presented by Students for the Future, which suggests a $5 donation for admission. Sonora High is at 430 N. Washington St. To learn more, call 532-5511.