The Green Man Festival raises environmental awareness

GREENBELT – The community in Greenbelt came together to celebrate the earth and the preservation of the forests during the 14th anniversary of the Green Man Festival on May 12 and 13.

The two-day festival was inspired by the Green Man, an ancient symbol of rebirth and growth.

Jean Newcomb, a Greenbelt resident of 31 years, discovered the Green Man after seeing a friend do a stained glass creation of it. It then became a way for the community to celebrate and protect the earth.  

“I was trying to celebrate the forest,” Newcomb said. “I thought it was saying to take care of it. The festival is a reminder and celebration of the forest and the land.”

As an advocate of the environment, one of Newcomb’s goals in creating the Green Man Festival was to preserve and celebrate the forests of Greenbelt.

Several groups came together to raise awareness of other important aspects of taking care of the earth such as The Greenbelt Climate Action Network.

“The theme of the festival is soil,” said Lore Rosenthal, committee member of The Greenbelt Compost Network and leader of The Greenbelt Climate Action Network. “A lot of people do not realize that soil helps with climate change. Compost and growing plants breathe carbon dioxide. Some think the only way to reduce climate change is to stop burning oil.”

Another group in attendance was The Greenbelt Compost Network who, partnered with the Climate Action Network, displayed a project they started this past fall after being given a grant from the county. As part of their project, they had a set of bins where families could drop off leftover food. The soil is then mixed with wood chips, and after a month it is moved to another box and left to sit, filtered, and the scraps turn into compost which is good for the soil. They ended up being able to give away all 25 of their compost materials to families at the festival.

This year the weather on the second day of the festival suffered with on and off rain showers throughout the day, but that didn’t stop the festivities. Throughout the day there were musical performances by The Homespun Ceilidh Band. There were jewelry, t-shirts, pottery, and all kinds of crafts on sale, and plenty of art projects to participate at.

“I come because of the variety of entertainment and things to purchase,” said John Waesche who comes to the festival every year with his wife. “There are lots of people, and it’s a wholesome atmosphere. Everyone is enjoying themselves.”

One of the most anticipated events of the festival was the drumming circle on Sunday led by Katy Gaughan. About 50 people gathered in the middle of the festival, picked up drums and various other instruments, and spent the next half hour laughing, dancing, and playing the music.

“The first thing we know is our mother’s heartbeat, and drumming is very similar,” said Gaughan. “Drumming is done in every culture. It brings diverse people together even if they’re from different backgrounds. Everyone is smiling and positive. We need that in today’s world.”

Gaughan has been drumming for 15 years and over the last few years has drummed with her organization Katy Gaughan Drumming for Wellness where she leads drum circles at community centers, assisted living facilities, schools, the Greenbelt 4th of July festival, and more. She advocates the many wellness aspects of drumming such as stress relief and strengthening the immune system. She’s led drum circles at the Green Man Festival almost every year.

“I love the community here,” she said. “There is everyone from kids to adults. I love the spirit of Greenbelt, and I love the earth.”

When Newcomb started the festival 14 years ago, she never planned on it being such a huge event but said it’s great to be able to see so many people from different backgrounds coming together to celebrate the earth.

“I like the community aspect,” said Elena Lumby who has been coming to the festival for the last four years. “I like how it brings together people from all over Greenbelt.”

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