Sandy Tauferner and Mark Klapatch-Matthias reviewed last year’s Earthfest, which was originally planned  as an outdoor event at Glen Park.  The cold and wind required organizers to move to the UWRF University Center at the last minute.  Among the many challenges was finding and arranging space for around 75 exhibitors from groups across the area.  At the event, Earthfest volunteers handed out lots of giveaways from Culver’s and other organizations.  As in past years, the sustainability pledge was offered, and they received 76 new pledges.
 
Again this year Earthfest will have a Bluegrass Festival artist as part of the ongoing tie-in with that event .  Mark said that he’s pretty comfortable with where the planning group of about 30 local people is, given that they are about a month from the event.  The first year Earthfest drew about 1000 people by informal count, the next year attendance was estimated at around 2000.  The number of exhibitors has grown from around 45 to 75.
 
One new feature this year is the addition of a guest speaker from 11 AM till 12 noon, before the Earthfest event itself begins.  Paul Douglas is the guest speaker, a meteorologist with 45 years of experience.  His theme is that "it’s not hopeless and we’re not helpless".  Douglas describes himself as a religious conservative who was formerly a climate change skeptic but who now views climate change as undeniable. 
 
An emphasis in 2024 is electrification of vehicles, bikes, tools, etc.  There will be education focused on rebates available for some kinds of “green” purchases.  Again this year, Our Neighbors’ Place and Wiley’s Wardrobe at RFHS are coordinating a clothing swap for adult-size clothes. 
 
Earthfest 2024 will also focus on local sourcing of food.  The planning includes several sample-size offerings that will add up to be enough for a full meal.  Local farmers will be represented.  This year there is also an arrangement with SET in Rosemount MN to bring compostable containers, food waste, and other compostable materials to their composting facility.   The thought is that this might represent a pilot program for a local facility someday in the future.
 
The Sustainability and Wellness Fair will have more than 75 participants.  The Vote for Earth booth will have a place where participants can vote on what they see as priorities for community action.  Activities are planned again for kids and adults.  New this year will be Humble Horse Ojibwe Ponies, a breed being brought back from near extinction.  If weather permits, there will be outdoor activities available.
 
In response to a question, Mark talked about the Sustainability Speaker series that Hope for Creation coordinates with the River Falls Public Library.  There will be two speakers in April and another one in May.  The talks are livestreamed and recorded for viewing later.  Video options allow speakers from distance to share their knowledge without incurring the expense of travel.