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Greater Bakersfield Green Expo

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What do you get when you bring local artists, eco-friendly vendors, and thousands of Bakersfield citizens together with the common goal of making our city more “green”? With Ray Scott at the forefront, you get the Greater Bakersfield Green Expo—an event that Scott says “went from inception to awards” in just three years!

The event stemmed from the Arvin Green Arts Festival, which shared the cause of bringing awareness on how to live in accordance with the green lifestyle to both students and the general public. The festival took place in 2009 with a combined effort from Scott and Arts Council of Kern Board Director, Jeanette Richardson. Both state and local vendors of products such as renewable energy and green building materials were on site to teach attendees how to utilize their services to the advantage of themselves and their community.

Also present was the artwork of local students—all made entirely out of recycled products—on display to be judged by the Arts Council. The students submitted their recycled art in hopes of winning a college scholarship.

The event was a great success, and drew the attention of both the city of Bakersfield and the county, who asked Scott if he would be able to make the event county-wide so that all of Kern could be more involved in such a meaningful endeavor. Scott was happy to, and in 2010, he presented the idea to a meeting for Keep Bakersfield Beautiful, at which Mayor Harvey Hall was present. Mayor Hall, being a big supporter of Keep Bakersfield Beautiful (a division of the Great American Cleanup), invited Scott to bring the expo to the annual Bakersfield Great American Cleanup. This event is responsible for bringing thousands of people together from Kern County to help clean up hundreds of thousands of pounds of litter while providing helpful services to the community, such as planting a garden at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Kern County.

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With Scott and the Arts Council in the mix, local artwork would now be a major part of the event, as well. For last year’s Green Expo, the call went out to the Kern High School District and their art teachers to encourage their art students to design masterpieces completely out of recycled materials and enter them to be displayed and judged at the expo. In total, 135 students heeded the call and entered their work at a shot to win part of the $7,000 in scholarships. The scholarships were made possible completely from the vendor’s fees because it was underwritten by participating local haulers.

The students had their work cut out for them, as the artistic part of the event, according to Scott, was “totally student-driven.” This meant that interested students had to apply, create the artwork, display it to be judged by Arts Council members, and then pick it up. “This way, it creates no extra cost for the schools and no extra work for the teachers,” Scott added—a much-appreciated bonus.

Over 2,000 Kern residents perused the expo, packed with art and vendors, to look at sculptures made out of soda tabs and milk cartons. Other pieces were made out of wire mesh, cardboard, paints, and feathers.

There were robots constructed of old computer and television parts and empty wine bottles cradled paper flowers! It was evident that the students had put their green thumbs and fingers to the test to come up with truly original and magnificent pieces. It was no easy task for the judges.

As an added bonus, in addition to the scholarships (which were presented to the students by the mayor), eight of the winning pieces made their way up to Sacramento to be displayed at California’s Earth Day press conference! Bragging rights were assuredly in order.

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The art wasn’t the only stimulating experience at the Greater Bakersfield Green Expo, though. The vendors varied from specialty shops to disposal companies—all present to bring information and environmentally-conscious awareness to guests. As Scott put it, “This event was the perfect collaboration of private industry, government agencies, and nonprofits all coming together for student and public education.”

As for awards, scholarships weren’t the only ones presented! The Greater Bakersfield Green Expo, alone, won two awards. One award was for Waste Reduction and Recycling Business/Professional Organization. The second was the Regional Merit Award, presented by the Kern Council of Governments for bringing such a fulfilling experience to the people of Bakersfield.

If you are a student or a vendor interested in being a part of the 2012 Greater Bakersfield Green Expo, applications can be obtained on the website, www.gbgreenexpo.org. Submission must be postmarked by March 19, 2012. This year’s expo is sure to be the biggest yet!

Photos courtesy of Ray Scott

Article appeared in our 28-6 Issue - February 2012