Each summer nearly 40,000 people converge on West Point on the Eno for three days of music, crafts and food. The Festival for the Eno helps to generate interest in the river and the Eno River Association's environmental projects, but it also produces an unwelcome by-product--piles of trash. In 1992, the festival's Trash Free program was launched, implementing ways to reduce the amount of waste at the event. Last year, organizers introduced a new weapon in the fight against heaping trash: recyclable utensils.
"Our food vendors use compostable cutlery," says coordinator Greg Bell. The knives, forks and spoons vendors divvy out are made from a wheat compound that decomposes quickly in the association's compost pile.
At this festival, the environment is always first. The Eno River Association, which sponsors the event, protects land around the area through education, advocacy and land trust. Every festival ticket helps build the fund for future expansion of the Eno River State Park.
"Everything at the festival is designed to advance that mission," Bell says. "It's a great opportunity to learn about the nature and culture of our area, specifically the river."
Advocacy and land purchases aside, until the Trash Free program, the event worked as a "do as I say and not as I do" sort of thing, Bell says.
"We were trying to promote environmental awareness and producing mountains of trash in the process."
Now, with the help of volunteers who man recycling and compost centers, the festival no longer generates as much waste.
"[The program is] painless for festival goers, but it reduces by 90 percent the amount of trash generated at the festival," says Bell, a longtime volunteer before taking over as coordinator five festivals ago.
The roughly 500 volunteers who run the recycling centers, set up stages and provide drinks on hot days comprise an essential force behind the festival.
"We have volunteers that come with parents and volunteer in drink booths with them, and they're sometimes [as young as] 6 years old. It's a family event, and I think it's good when the parents get the kids out there. They see another side of the festival," says Pam Watkins, the festival's volunteer coordinator.
For many, it's an annual event. "We just have a group of regulars that this is what they do," Watkins says. "I think there's a very loyal group to this festival. They love the festival and they love the Eno."
The festival brings over 100 musical acts, countless craftsmen and a variety of activities to the banks of the Eno.
Bands like Yawo, an ensemble that fuses jazz with traditional African music, and the old-time sounds of groups like the Stillhouse Bottom Band can be heard on five different stages each day. Booths set up around the festival ensure that everyone knows how to recycle correctly, and children can try their hand at activities such as quilting and pottery. If all else fails, attendees can rent a canoe or kayak and brave the river, or simply hop in to cool down.
"Our spot is comfortable enough that you can get out of the crowd and find a shady spot or dunk yourself in the river if you want to," Bell says. "Most people come for the music, but there are a good number of people that come for the crafts as well. It's the way they spend their Independence weekend."
The Festival for the Eno starts Saturday, July 2 and runs through Monday, July 4 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. Schedules and complete information is available at www.enoriver.org/Festival.
Fesitval for the Eno's featured performers
Saturday, July 2: Eddie From Ohio, Hushpuppies, Julee Glaub, Stillhouse Bottom Band
Sunday, July 3: Jump, Little Children, Nikki Meets the Hibachi, Steep Canyon Rangers, Yawo
Monday, July 4: African American Dance Ensemble, Yasmine White, John Dee Holeman, Jon Shain Trio