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Tampa EcoFest Bigger Than Ever

Thousands of people showed up for the 7th annual EcoFest Saturday hosted by Learning Gate Community School, the City of Tampa and the University of South Florida Patel College of Global Sustainability.

Michele Northrup with Learning Gate Community School helped coordinate the event. She said it has grown from 33 vendors in its first year to more than 150.

“We’ve decided to partner together so instead of having three small Earth Day events, we have one big, bang, boom Earth Day event for all of Tampa Bay,” Northrup said.

Local artists, musicians, business owners and farmers teamed up to promote what they call “Ecology, Equity and Economy” and to encourage sustainable practices all year.

Activities included a drum circle, demonstrations by local martial arts studios, exhibits on recycling, and more.

Superheroes like Batman, Spider-Man and Wonder Woman also wandered EcoFest, which held outside around the Lowry Park Zoo band shell.

While the day-long event promotes green energy and sustainable practices, the costumed heroes were there for a cause that goes beyond all that.

Zachary Hurst, president of the M.U.C.H. Foundation, which stands for “Makers United for Children’s Hope,” said EcoFest not only brings joy to little ones at the event, but also helps them connect with children who are sick and disabled.

“We’re able to communicate with the mayor’s office, we’re able to tell our story to the crowds and pass out our information; We get more contacts through the year of individuals that have their children in the hospitals than any other event that we do,” Hurst said.

The foundation’s volunteers dress like superheroes, Disney Princesses and other beloved children’s characters to help them through tough times.

They also help make pop culture-themed prosthetics, wheelchairs and more.

I took my first photography class when I was 11. My stepmom begged a local group to let me into the adults-only class, and armed with a 35 mm disposable camera, I started my journey toward multimedia journalism.
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