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By Casey Christie / The Californian
BY SUSAN SCAFFIDI Contributing writer
Do you think Bakersfield's streets and neighborhoods are getting cleaner?
Thirteen years of activities under the Keep Bakersfield Beautiful and Great American Cleanup banners are paying off, say organizers of the campaigns. Those efforts and more will be recognized at the annual Green Expo at Yokuts Park this Saturday.
Fifth Annual Green Expo
When: 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday; vendors booths and exhibits open at 8 a.m.; children's games and activities start at 10 a.m.; arts awards and barbecue begin at 11 a.m.
Where: Yokuts Park, 4200 Empire Drive
"Based on personal observation, it's definitely been worthwhile," said Jessica Felix, spokeswoman for Keep Bakersfield Beautiful.
Felix said areas particularly troubled with litter, graffiti, general neglect and other problems are designated as "hot spots" and get special attention from the campaign and volunteer groups.
"For years now we've come to expect some places to always be a hot spot," Felix said. "We've actually reached the point where some parts are being taken off the list."
"All the residents that have participated in the Great American Cleanup throughout the year will attend this to celebrate," said Ray Scott, chairman of the Expo.
Some of the year's activities include IKEA's planting of 56 trees along the Panorama bluffs in March; a joint project between Caltrans and local homeless shelter residents to remove litter along freeways; the Garces Circle renewal project; and the city's joint project with local artists to decorate electrical boxes downtown to discourage graffiti.
"The big idea behind the yearlong program is to give people and companies flexibility to schedule projects during the year instead of just in a one- or two-month schedule," Scott said.
That's not to say there won't be work to do on Green Expo day. Felix and Scott said most of the work will involve removing garbage and graffiti, but there also will be projects to add spots of beauty: planting flowers at City Hall and at the Fox Theater; groups working in two community gardens -- the "Seeds of Inspiration" garden at Fourth and Eye streets, and the Greenfield Walking Group garden at 5224 Jonah St. near Pacheco Road and South H Street.
"We helped (volunteers) build a community garden and they are maintaining it," Scott said.
The expo will include exhibits from vendors and exhibits from the green energy industry and conservation groups and activities, children's games and a barbecue. One of the highlights of the day is the annual student art contest, awarding cash scholarships to students who create works of art from recycled materials.
"It could be a wood product or metal or plastic or any combination thereof," Scott said.
This year, students will be judged on Friday evening in one of two categories: best presentation and best use of recycled materials. Awards will be handed out Saturday morning. Scott said the two categories were joined in past competitions; separating them allows him to recognize more students.
Scott said the work of winners from the past five years will be on display this fall at the Kern County Fair. Over the years, some of the students' work has gone on to statewide events.
"That's one of the greatest things," Scott said, "being able to give students the opportunity to be recognized by others."