Nutter Field House was the place to be Friday as hundreds of community members gathered to celebrate the planet and learn more about conservation and "green" living at the Fort Leonard Wood Earth Day Fair and Celebration.
The Public Affairs Office, in conjunction with the Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division, sponsored this year's celebration.
According to Ryan Thompson, public affairs specialist and coordinator of the event, it was the largest Earth Day event held on Fort Leonard Wood in recent years. Aside from the numerous on-post participants taking part in the celebration, more than 450 area school children also attended.
Loretta Williams, a kindergarten teacher at Richland Elementary School, guided her students through the numerous exhibits and hands-on activities.
"I want them to learn some important things about recycling and taking care of the Earth," Williams said.
Some of the activities and exhibits participants were able to see and interact with included: a giant aquarium set up by the Missouri Department of Conservation, gardening demonstrations by the Missouri Extension Master Gardeners, and a program on bats by Missouri State University. There were also numerous giveaways available to participants and even visits from Smokey Bear and Clean Water Casey.
One popular exhibit was the monarch butterfly display, hosted by Missouri State Parks. Kendra Swee, Missouri State Parks interpretive resource coordinator, said it's important for people to realize how vital pollinators, such as monarch butterflies, are. Currently the butterfly's population is declining.
"Here in Missouri, the decline is connected to a loss of milkweed," Swee said. "The butterflies have nowhere to lay their eggs."
Swee was able to make her message more memorable by guiding children through making their own monarch butterfly headbands.
For Thayer Elementary School student, Kaeliana Ferranmelendez, the day was one she found important enough to share with her father, Marine Staff Sgt. Michael Ferranmelendez.
Michael said before he agreed to help chaperone Kaeliana's field trip, he asked her to articulate to him why they should attend.
"She stressed to me the importance of Earth Day and knowing that, as individuals, we have to do our part to make sure we don't pollute the Earth and take care of what we have." Michael said.
It was easy to see Kaeliana's passion and eagerness to do more for the environment. "I want to see that people are actually going to try to keep the Earth cleaner and cut down on pollution," she said.
Aside from the activities and exhibits, DPW provided guests with a chance to actively recycle at the fair by collecting electronic waste for e-cycling.
"We need to keep this stuff out of the landfill," said Craig French, solid waster and recycling program manager. "This stuff contains a lot of lead, so if it ends up in landfills, it can potentially end up in the water table."
French said DPW hosts e-cycling programs a few times each year and each time they are successful.
"We get a little more (waste) every year, so it has been real success," French said.