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April 19, 2014

Earth Day brings families to Graceada Park for its 25th celebration of the planet

The 25th annual Earth Day drew families to Graceada Park in Modesto to learn about environmentally friendly options, enjoy activities and gather freebies.

Godzilla took in the hubbub of Earth Day in the park with only an occasional flick of his forked tongue. Saving the planet was not likely on his mind, for the giant lizard has proven quite adaptable to a changing world.

While his relatives make headlines overrunning Florida, the male black-and-white tegu rested easy on the arm of Reptile Education Club volunteer Justin Bell. But humans at Saturday’s 25th annual festival were taking climate change and conservation to heart.

In this year of drought, five-minute shower timers were a hot item at the city of Modesto’s water conservation booth. How many would be cutting their showers short? Victoria Romo of Modesto said she will.

“I think I can. Yeah, definitely,” Romo said. “Just use cold water; you’re in and out.”

The booth also had turn-off hose nozzles and tiny, clear water gauges to measure leaks – place under the drip for 15 seconds and the measurements show how much water that tap will waste in a year, said Yaridza Oaxaca of the city of Modesto Finance Department. “Sometimes people don’t think (it’s much), but it really adds up,” she said.

Romo’s younger sister, 11-year-old Suzana, said she’s not so sure about short showers, but she does turn off the water while brushing her teeth.

Informational displays of electric and hybrid vehicles, solar panels and recycled building materials hewed to the environmental theme. Delectable scents from food booths wafted across the park, and vendors offered specialty rocks, tie-dye clothes and a hodgepodge of other items.

At another city booth, Larry Garcia talked about composting yard waste into rich garden soil, while fellow Modesto city workers handed out hundreds of free vegetable plants to a steady line of visitors.

Plants, Frisbees, fly swatters, candy, rubber bracelets and shoelaces tempted passers-by to come hear how they could do their part for Earth Day. Rebecca Uc was among those leaving Graceada Park with reusable bags laden with giveaways. She prefers to use the bags when she shops. “We try to do that as much as possible,” she said.

But what keeps her returning annually to the celebration is the atmosphere. “I like the community feel of it,” Uc said. “It’s very family-oriented.”

Kid-friendly performances, including a juggling show by Earthcapades and a children’s singalong by the Silly String Band added to that family feel.

Children’s activities drew Monica Castaneda of Escalon. “Projects for the kids, that’s what’s best to me,” she said, walking through the park with sister Amber Mercer and their children.

Mercer ticked off reasons she came: “Getting the kids out, enjoying the day, and we’re learning things.”

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