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Thousands visit City Park for Berks Earth Day Festival

As the spring sun shone over City Park in Reading, Edwin and Edric Mathew were busy encouraging their new friend to come out of his shell.

Orange the box turtle seemed eager to meet the Mathews, wiggling its head and legs out through a shell lined with bright markings.

“I like how they have different personalities, colors, how they get into their shells and out,” said Edric, 10.

“They’re adorable,” added Edwin, 11.

Rebekah Sheeler from Nolde Forest Environmental Education Center shows a box turtle to Edric, 10, left, and Edwin, 11, Mathew of Sinking Spring during the Earth Day celebration Saturday in City Park. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
Rebekah Sheeler from Nolde Forest Environmental Education Center shows a box turtle to Edric Mathew, 10, left, and Edwin Mathew, 11, of Sinking Spring during the Earth Day celebration Saturday in City Park. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

Orange, which belongs to a species native to Pennsylvania, was the star of a display by the Nolde Forest Environmental Education Center — one of over 80 organizations that took part in this year’s Berks County Earth Day Festival.

“Just like humans have different fingerprints, turtles have different patterns on their shells,” noted Rebekah Sheeler, an educator with the Cumru Township site.

Sobinson Mathew of Sinking Spring said he takes the family to the festival every year. His sons said they always look forward to checking out the displays, especially the ones involving turtles.

In another area, the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary of Albany Township brought out its guest of honor — a great horned owl.

“There are little ways that you can help birds … just by throwing away your garbage and not out your car window is a great way to help birds of prey, because we see a lot of car strikes,” Jess Gary, educator with Hawk Mountain. “Not using pesticides in your yard … putting up bird boxes, giving them a place to nest … will help our birds of prey as well.”

A great horned owl is part of the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary program during the Earth Day celebration Saturday in City Park. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
A great horned owl is part of the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary program during the Earth Day celebration Saturday in City Park. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

Cleanup effort

Keeping the local environment clean was the intent of an annual citywide cleanup earlier Saturday, organized by the Reading Public Works Department as well as groups including the Salvation Army, South of Penn, the Reading High School football team, 150 students and administrators from Alvernia University and local Realtors.

More than 400 volunteers participated in the event, picking up 190 trash bags, 37 lawn bags and several bulk items from the mountainside by Saturday afternoon, according to Ryan Bradley, Reading’s clean city coordinator.

“This was by far the most (volunteers),” Bradley said of this year’s cleanup. “Way more than previous years. I’m actually excited.”

Elsewhere at the festival, Rich Cattermole, a volunteer with Berks Nature, noted that invasive species can be a thorn in the side of a balanced ecosystem.

Invasive vines such as the multiflora rose were given to farmers about 50 years ago to put around their pastures as a living fence but grew out of control, Cattermole said.

“They’ll hit the ground and grow and grow, now we have acres of that,” Cattermole said of the plant. “My uncle actually was given that stuff for his pasture, I’ve been hacking at it for 50 years.”

He said larger scale volunteer efforts to contain invasive plants, like those organized by Berks Nature, can help keep invasives contained and the environment preserved.

Music and dance

Preserving something precious was also the goal of Spirit Wing, a Native American music and dance group that performed a Lenape prayer song.

Taina River Acevedo, 9; Caona Luna Acevedo, 7; and Spirit-Hawk Acevedo, 5 donned Native American garb and danced along as a circle of musicians sang in Lenape in rhythm with beating drums and rattles.

Siblings from left Taina River, 9, Caona Luna, 7, and Sprit-Hawk , 5, Acevedo perform a Native American dance during the Earth Day celebration Saturday in City Park. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
Siblings from left Taina River Acevedo, 9, Caona Luna Acevedo, 7, and Sprit-Hawk Acevedo , 5,  perform a Native American dance during the Earth Day celebration Saturday in City Park. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

“It’s basically calling the Great Spirit for us to all be in a good way,” said Amanda Acevedo of Carbon County. “It’s like a prayer.”

Acevedo, of the Lenape nation, said her group, Reflections of Turtle Island, works to preserve native lands and cultures and holds powwows.

“We like to bring the Native American community to shed awareness and let people know we’re still out here,” Acevedo said.

On the other side of the park, a smooth country twang lilted from the banjoes of the Golden Twine String Band.

Lounging in lawn chairs and bobbing their heads to the tunes were Debbie Whitehead of Pottstown, and Rich Hurter of Reading.

Debbie Whitehead of Pottstown and Rich Hurter of Reading enjoy the Golden Twin String Band during the Earth Day celebration Saturday in City Park. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
Debbie Whitehead of Pottstown and Rich Hurter of Reading enjoy the Golden Twin String Band during the Earth Day celebration Saturday in City Park. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

Whitehead said she tries to make it to the festival every year.

“Last year was really cool, with the cherry blossoms in the trees,” Whitehead said. “I always like to come back.”

The festival’s turnout was particularly strong this year, said Bethany Ayers, sustainability manager with Reading Public Works.

“It’s going great, this has been one of the largest turnouts so far,” Ayers said. “The park is full, it’s wonderful.”

Ayers said organizers were expecting a total turnout of 2,500 to 3,000 people throughout the day.

The Golden Twine String Band entertains the crowd during the Earth Day celebration Saturday in City Park. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
The Golden Twine String Band entertains the crowd during the Earth Day celebration Saturday in City Park. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)


Source: Berkshire mont

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