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Earth Day Richmond Virginia

Updated on April 24, 2012
Inside Farm2Family Bus
Inside Farm2Family Bus
Farm2Family - owners Mark&Suzi Lilly
Farm2Family - owners Mark&Suzi Lilly
When you wear an eye patch people think you're tough
When you wear an eye patch people think you're tough
The Trillions
The Trillions
Crowd Sitting on Recycled Paper Bales
Crowd Sitting on Recycled Paper Bales
Daniel Carawan
Daniel Carawan

Earth Day in Richmond, Virginia. What image does that bring to mind? If it brought together an image of an eclectic cast of characters, in a former dangerous and downtrodden part of the city, with music and food along with a splendid Spring day - you would be correct.


The former City of Manchester hosted the event just beyond the 14th Street bridge connecting Shockoe Bottom, Mayo Island and the Manchester section of Richmond. The history of Manchester is interesting and dates back to the settlement of the eastern seaboard by Europeans. Originally known as Rocky Ridge, the city was settled in 1609 by the English and evolved into a tobacco export location. The city also has a darker legacy as being a major slave trading center.

The oldest building in Manchester is the Freeland house built in 1797 located on the 1000 block of Bainbridge Street. It is a large brick building that locals refer to as just 'the mansion'. Freeland was from Scotland and was a major tobacco exporter.

Manchester grew and was the seat of government for Chesterfield county before its annexation by the City of Richmond in 1910. The Michler Map of 1867 shows a street grid layout encompassing an area almost fifty percent as large as Richmond itself. This grid was originally formulated for William Byrd II by John Mayo in 1737 - Mayo Island is his namesake. The Richmond and Danville Railroad is also shown having a terminus in Manchester.

Due to Manchester's separation from the City of Richmond by the James River it was saved from the destructive fires set by the retreating Confederates during the last days of the War Between the States. The Illustrated London News published a color portrait of the city titled, "Panorama of Richmond After its Capture by the Federals", dated Oct. 21, 1865, showing a destroyed riverfront of Richmond with gutted buildings tumbling into ruined streets but across the river a completely intact Manchester is clearly visible.

One of the most fascinating things on the Michler Map is an oval labeled as 'Wards Race Course' and the town of Ward. On these old maps place names were given to landowners in rural areas. This was an old horse trotting track which, as far as I can place it, now lies underneath Manchesters' Blackwell Elementary School. Autumn Simpson of the Valentine Museum researched this for me and found a passage in Benjamin Weisiger III's Old Manchester that reads: "In May 1863, D.F. Ward, proprietor of the new trotting track at Falls Plantation put in the newspaper that he was about to have a trotting meet there."

The modern area of Manchester was revitalized by city planners, along with some very adventuresome developers - bringing forth a thriving artist and residential community along the James River. The backdrop for this years' event was a brilliant example of reuse to create apartments and artist space incorporating an industrial chic architectural style.

The Festival

Richmond takes pride in hosting quite a few festivals and events during the season with Earth Day organizers proclaiming, "This festival is a daylong celebration providing resources, education, and information in a fun-filled outdoor setting. It is our goal to help the Richmond community incorporate eco-friendly practices, products and services in their homes and everyday routines."

On the main stage in the square next to the Richmond Train Museum - seven talented and aspiring musical groups performed. This included The Trillions, whose lead singer - Charlie Glenn, warned the crowd, "I know you've been listening to Jazz before we took the stage - but let me warn you that we are a Rock & Roll band!" And they proved it! After being introduced by Richmond's' Style Weekly magazine, they proceeded to rock the crowd with songs from their latest album "Tritones". The band says that, "We look to deliver a familiar punch with an unheard of style and sound." They mix together rock and punk while suffusing it with musical composition and vocals more reminiscent to Classical and Romantic music.

The Exhibits

Radiating into the reclaimed alleys between the former industrial building were exhibits staffed with special interest groups exhibiting their efforts to help the planet. From plant vendors to rain barrel hawkers to petitioners all was done in fun within a relaxed atmosphere. Even if you didn't agree with a certain viewpoint you were allowed to engage with these mostly young people in a constructive way.

I interviewed Daniel Carawan of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, who was explaining from his booth, their efforts to convince Dominion Power of Virginia to use more renewable resources for power generation. He explained that, "Virginia has an abundance of wind both offshore and in the western part of the state atop the Appalachian chain". When asked about the success of their political lobbying efforts Daniel said, "The politicians listen to us thoughtfully and with an approving nod ... but when in office they aren't always willing to follow through." The realities of competing interests tug at the direction of our elected representatives.

Food & Beer

Back to Festival Square I was met by an empty stomach and the smell of delicious food. But dominating my line of sight was the beer truck - OK, a Legend Brown Ale first. Delicious and brewed right in Richmond just steps from the festival. With beer in hand I walked towards the aroma drifting over the square - Thai Top Ten was grilling satay and gathering a very long line. Farther afield was a broken down yellow bus that was serving sandwiches and wraps while sporting a short line. Wrap it was and I ordered one with spinach, onion, mild and spicy pepper - satisfying and the bite of the sandwich was cooled by the Legend Ale.

The day was capped off with a stroll through a converted school bus dressed up like it was auditioning for the Partridge Family - this is the Farm 2 Family mobile farmers market run by local entrepreneurs Mark and Suzi Lilly. The bus is jam packed with an assortment of mouth watering garden delights - I bought a huge tomato, some asparagus, cheese and honey with the comb. The bus visits festivals, such as this, as well as schools, neighborhoods, and senior centers. The bus has been featured on BBC World News and Rachel Ray and was voted best in state by Garden and Gun magazine 2010.

As I was leaving I passed by the sponsored Swap Meet with outdoorsmen and women exchanging kayaking gear. Passing right through Richmond are Class IV rapids - the only city in America where this is so.

Bibliography, April 23, 2012


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