Dandelion Day growing up | PostIndependent.com

Dandelion Day growing up

Will Grandbois

Over the past 18 years, Carbondale’s annual spring festival has struggled to find an identity.

It began as an attempt to replace herbicides with an army of volunteers toting dandelion diggers, coupled with a bid to make the dandelion the town flower.

“It took some explaining,” recalled event founder John “Doc” Philip. “When you go back 120 years, all the farmers and ranchers ate dandelions. It’s the most nutritious vegetable on planet Earth and one of the few plants that’s totally edible.”

As time went by, the idea of finding the value in a supposed weed grew into a broader message.

“It’s all about celebrating the important idea of sustainability,” said information coordinator Sue Gray.

The community yard sale of the early years has given way to a more traditional fair atmosphere with music and booths in Sopris Park.

Thanks to vendor coordinator Alyssa Reindel, it’s now a zero waste event with around 50 participating organizations —, some of which go organic specifically for Dandelion Day.

“It’s a festival of sustainability,” she said. “We want to make sure that message continues with our vendors.”

Indeed, many booths provide information in addition to — or instead of — wares.

Casey Piscura of Wild Mountain Seeds plans to take the opportunity to teach people about breeding plants and saving seeds at home.

“A lot of people get away from it, but it’s a really important part of agriculture,” Piscura said.

In addition to seeds for greens, squash and beets, Piscura will also be peddling some of the fruits of his labor on a small section of ranch south of town: over 120 varieties of hardy organic tomato starts.

“Tomatoes are what everyone loves about summer,” he said. “We’re getting some amazingly resilient plants. A 40 degree night doesn’t seem to bother them, while the ones you get at the store are usually grown in a hoop house in California with who knows what chemicals.”

If you miss them at the fair, you can still pick up their starts at The Planted Earth or the Basalt Farmer’s Market.

True Nature Healing Arts’ booth will also be a hybrid.

“We’d like to represent our different sectors — tea, yoga, retail and spa —in some capacity,” said general manager Eric Mitchell.

Sister organization True Nature Kitchen will provide samples of probiotic tea alongside discounted products as part of a weekend sale at True Nature’s permanent location.

“We’ve received feedback that we’re seen as exclusive or expensive. We want to be a resource for everyone interested in learning, healing and conscious living,” Mitchell said. “Getting involved in Dandelion Day is part of finding our greater self. It’s really a festival for the locals. It really fits with our mission, and it seemed like a natural place for us to be.”

In another business tie in, the Carbondale Community Food Co-Op has officially changed its name to “Dandelion Market.”

“There’s so much love for the dandelion in this town that we thought it would just make us that much more approachable,” board member Emily Steers said.

There are additional educational opportunities in the art bus and learning tent, but there’s more to it than that.

“We really wanted to make it so you learn something when you go to Dandelion Day, but it also has to be fun,” observed general organizer Candace Goodwin.

The fun starts at 10 a.m. Saturday with the nonmotorized Parade of Species on Main Street. The Songwriter’s Showcase brings local talent to the park from 11 to 2 — a shift from past years when only the winner graced the event.

“We finally decided to just bring the whole showcase to the main stage,” said showcase organizer Stacy Stein. “It’s fun to feature local musicians people don’t always get to see perform.”

About a dozen acts are signed up to participate, including solo and group performers and a variety of genres all unified by the environmental theme.

There’s also the presentation of the Order of the Dandelion, which will be conferred on the Roaring Fork High School energy club for its work in arranging a solar array for the school.

This year’s event will not include a beer stand or a compost competition.

While it’s matured, the event is still in need of help to make it thrive.

“We would love to have new people get involved,” said Gray. “We’ve laid the groundwork. It’s time for fresh ideas and energy to take it to the next level.”

For more information, visit http://www.dandelionday.org.

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