Weekend Event In Topanga Promotes Love of Earth

Belly dancer Devon Farr moves to the beat of Jamie Papish and the Topanga drummers at the Topanga Earth Day celebration last weekend. The two-day event drew hundreds of people to musical performances and speakers advocating for the protection of the environment.

Advocates and supporters of environmentalism converged at the Old Canyon Ranch in Topanga this past weekend for the 15th Annual Topanga Earth Day celebration.

Hundreds of people attended the two-day event, which featured a bevy of musical performers and speakers, spreading messages of protecting the environment. They performed on stages overlooking teepees and vendor stands overlooking the sprawling 2.5-acre nursery, which sits around a mile off Topanga Canyon Road.

“This brings together a tribe of people that all feel the same way about the environment,” said singer/songwriter Julie Cohen, more popularly known by her stage name Jewels Nation. An event emcee, Nation has been part of the festival’s organizing committee since 2006.

“We are here to learn from each other,” she said. “We are here to share our newest ideas about moving the planet forward. We want to figure out what’s working and how to brainstorm those ideas and turn them into reality.”

Around 30 vendors such as the Topanga Peace Alliance, Ma Center LA, the Mountain Lion Foundation, Sea Shepherd, Peace 4 Animals, OURF Orangutans and Vital Hemp took part in the event and spread messages of cherishing the planet.

Vendors sold various items, including hula-hoops, handmade jewelry and custom-made clothes. There were also face painting and massage services.

One vendor, Sara Rose Wasson, who was selling jewelry, said she hadn’t been to the festival in years, but she was enjoying it.

“This is just great,” she said.

Carloads of people attended the event and parked alongside of Topanga Canyon and Old Topanga Canyon roads to make their way to the bazaar. Many were dressed in hippie or hemp clothing.

The ever-popular event preceded Earth Day, which is on April 22 each year. The holiday, celebrated in 192 countries, is a planetwide demonstration of support for environmental protection.

Seth, a Topanga resident for more than two decades, said, weekend festival is an event for which people in Topanga gather together.

“The whole community is here,” said Seth, who did not wish to give his last name. “It’s a really nice time to get out and see members of your community, who you might not run into for a long time.”

Chuck Berez, another member of the Topanga Earth Day Organizing Committee, said he was pleased with the turnout.

“It’s good to get people out and have them bond together,” he said.

The Earth Day gala took place at Old Canyon Ranch this year, after taking place at Topanga State Park and Topanga Community House in previous years. Nation said the new venue was one of the many things attendees liked about the observance.

“They like that it’s shady; they are actually hiking around the property and are feeling very connected to the Earth,” she said. “Most people are really surprised about how peaceful it is.”

Saturday featured a May Peace Prevail On Earth Flag Ceremony led by the World Peace Prayer Society and Pledge to Earth by Charles Berez. Speakers included Bill Bowling of Topanga Creek Watershed and Prabhat Gautam from the Animal Advocacy Museum. There were also presentations on mountain lion conservation, creating art from recycled material and the issues with cell phone towers.

Sunday featured presentations from David Hance of Sea Shepherd, Ron Alcalay from Vital Hemp, Katie Cleary from Peace 4 Animals, Gary Shapiro from OURF Orangutans and Swathi Movva from Amma’s Embracing the World Charities. There was even a minute-long recognition of the counterculture and cannabis celebratory holiday 4/20 at 4:20 p.m. at the bash’s main stage.

Both days featured several workshops and musical performances.

Fatimah Thomas, whose son, Leon Mobley, performed with his band at the Earth Day celebration, said she enjoyed the festival.

“It’s a great day,” said Thomas, a San Bernardino resident. “I’m a senior, so I remember the days of gathering on hills and playing music like this.”

Juan Nelson, who plays bass guitar in Mobley’s group, said the Earth Day event was enlightening.

“Anything that can bring people together like this is great,” Nelson said. “I’m just glad to be a part of it.”

Nation, the part-time Topanga resident and emcee at the main stage, said next year they want to continue to provide a place where people can learn and celebrate Mother Earth.

“It’s festivals like this where we get the energy to go out in the world and make progress,” Nation said.