One of my favorite things to write about over the years has been free festivals, where families could get out and learn something new, enjoy some live music, sample some food and experience a day in the park.

But alas, for the last year, there have been no in-person festivals for me to write about. There have been plenty of virtual events, but honestly, I have become a little weary of virtual experiences.

So, it seems appropriate that the first festival I get to write about this spring is the return of the Earth Day Festival to Centennial Park this weekend.

The festival, organized by the Centennial Park Conservancy, is not only the first major in-person event to return to the park after the March 2020 COVID-19 shutdown, but it is also the first big event to take place on the newly renovated Great Lawn in front of the Parthenon.

The free family festival will take place from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, April 24. There will be social distancing, masks will be in place, but the festival is the real deal — in person.

“We’re thankful people will have the opportunity to attend an in-person Nashville Earth Day event after having to join us virtually last year,” said John Tumminello, Centennial Park Conservancy executive director. “We hope our on-site partners will help educate people about environmental issues and inspire them to create positive environmental change.”

Saturday’s festival will feature growers and makers, non-profit and government partners, yoga, children’s activities, live music and food vendors.

Festivalgoers can preregister for an 11:30 a.m. Small World Yoga class. They also can enjoy acoustic music by six local artists, including the Global Education Center drummers and dancers at 12:30 p.m.; Frank Evans and Ben Plotnick at 1:30 p.m.; Kyshona at 2:20 p.m.; Tristen at 3:15 p.m.; and Wu Fei at 4:10 p.m.

Kidsville will feature take-home activity kits for children to create their own bug hotel, and there will be a family storybook walk around Lake Watauga featuring the book “Plants Can’t Stand Still.”

The Turnip Green Creative Reuse Center will host an art activity for attendees to create a giant Earth Day banner using donated reused and recycled materials.

And there will be a “Growers and Makers Market” offering recycled, reused, upcycled and natural products.

Details on all of the events can be found at nashvilleearthday.org/event-details.

Plus, the Nashville Tree Foundation, in partnership with Amazon, will give away 500 trees. They will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.

This Earth Day festival has been a spring mainstay in Nashville for many years, once organized by the Metro Public Works Department and later by the Nashville Parks Foundation. The conservancy took it over last year but was not able to have an in-person event due to COVID-19.

Centennial Park’s Phase II renovation is almost complete, but the West End and 27th Avenue North entrances are currently closed due to construction, and some fencing is still in place.

But Assistant Parks Director Tim Netsch said, “The Great Lawn is wide open on the west and north sides.

“The rest of the work is primarily related to roads, entrances and the bandshell landscape and will be done yet this spring.” He said some fences will stay up temporarily to protect the landscape during the weather dependent on grass grow-in.

There is free parking in the HCA lots along Park Plaza. To see an event parking map, visit nashvilleearthday.org/parking.

Enjoy the festival and more festivals to come on the Great Lawn.

It looks like the annual spring Tennessee Crafts Fair will also take place at Centennial Park in person in May and that Musicians Corner, the conservancy’s family-friendly concerts, will make a comeback in the park with a three-day weekend return June 11-13. Musicians Corner is also planning a September series, too.

Stay cheap!

Mary Hance, who has four decades of journalism experience in the Nashville area, writes a weekly Ms. Cheap column. She also appears on Thursdays on “Talk of the Town” on NewsChannel5. Reach her at mscheap@mainstreetmediatn.com and follow her on Facebook as Facebook.com/mscheap.

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