Wednesday, Apr 03 2013 05:08 PM

Good green fun at expo, city cleanup

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    By Photo courtesy of Ray Scott

    This lamp, made from a bowling ball, bicycle fork and barbed wire, shows the initiative and creativity required of students in the Greater Bakersfield Green Expo art competition. This entry was from a prior event.

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BY CAMILLE GAVIN Contributing writer

In many ways, the Greater Bakersfield Green Expo is like a country fair in an urban setting.

True, the event on Saturday at Yokuts Park doesn't feature homemade jams and jellies, but it does offer information and demonstrations about a lot of things designed to protect our environment.

It's got everything from scoping out a hybrid car to learning about the advantages and disadvantages of solar energy. Plus a chance to choose the finalists in a recycled art contest.

And if you happen to stop by about noontime, you'll get a free picnic lunch.

Of course, the expo's main goal is to showcase the various ways people of any age can do their bit to improve the environment. More than 50 vendors -- businesses, government agencies and nonprofits -- will be on hand to talk about the details.

An estimated 1,000 orange-shirted volunteers who will devote nearly two hours that morning to take part in the Great American Cleanup at another location are expected to arrive at Yokuts Park about 10 a.m. Many of those volunteers will receive awards from Mayor Harvey Hall for exemplary service.

Representatives from the mayor's cleanup of freeway off-ramps as well as the Keep Bakersfield Beautiful committee will attend in the hopes of recruiting more volunteers to pick up litter on a year-round basis or to plant a tree that will help clean the air by producing more oxygen.

This is the fourth annual event for the expo. Ray Scott of Price Disposal said it grew out of a one-day event in the early 2000s in the city of Arvin.

It was sponsored by the Arts Council of Kern -- which probably explains why an art contest continues to be a key part of the expo -- and the six local trash haulers now known as the Metro Recycling Corp., or MRC.

The current Greater Bakersfield Green Expo was founded in 2010 by Keep Bakersfield Beautiful and the MRC.

In 2012, the expo attracted about 4,000 people and Scott, the event coordinator, expects even more this year.

"What we're trying to do is educate the public -- adults and students," he said. "That's about the only way we can make a difference."

Use of social media is one way the expo committee hopes to get the attention of high school students. It's called the Facebook Art Contest and winners are eligible for valuable rewards.

What it all adds up to is encouraging students to find ways of making something new out of something that might otherwise end up in a landfill.

For example, among last year's entries was a handsome portrait of an Aztec warrior made from carefully placed metal pop tabs, a sculpture of a gorgeous peacock flaunting shiny blue and green plumes fashioned from empty soda cans, and a fierce- looking 3-foot-long dragon, also made with cans.

Deadline for this year's entries was March 15, but Scott said there will be another contest in 2014. For the current expo, the committee received artwork from 67 students in 12 different high schools. All will be displayed for the first time on Saturday. Based on visitors' votes, it will be winnowed down to just 50 pieces.

"Saturday night we'll put them on Facebook until April 30," Scott said. "The winners will be the ones with the most 'likes' and they'll be (recognized) by the mayor (Harvey Hall) at an awards ceremony on May 15."

The top five students with the most "likes" will be awarded an iPad. Six winners in three other categories --best use of recycled material, best presentation and the mayor's award -- will receive a total of $6,000 in scholarships.

"They can use the money for anything they want," Scott said. "It can be for dorm rent, books -- anything they need for their education."

Dave Taylor, who works for Hall Ambulance, heads the cleanup-related aspects of the expo and also acts a safety chair for volunteer crews who pick up roadside litter.

"We only do the off-and-on-ramps, not the freeway itself," Taylor said. "That's because from Panama Lane to 24th Street, the freeway through Bakersfield is shaped like a bowl -- doing the sloped sides is too dangerous.

"I always start off with a lecture and the first thing I tell (volunteers) is: Don't go play in the freeway."

He sees the Green Expo as a collaboration between the various entities that participate as a win-win situation all the way around.

"We're all focused on a clean, healthy environment," Taylor said. "It's interwoven -- we draw people to them and they draw people to us."

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