Héctor Sánchez Castañeda
Isla Vista Beat Reporter
Gusts of wind carried various melodies through Anisq’Oyo’ Park on Saturday, April 23, as Isla Vista residents, students and the surrounding community gathered for a joint celebration of Earth Day and the annual Chilla Vista Arts & Music Festival.
Student organizers from the University of California, Santa Barbara Environmental Affairs Board (EAB) and the Isla Vista Community Relations Committee (IVCRC) — both units within Associated Students — decided to merge their annual events into one community-centered festival this year. Last year, the events were held within two weeks of each other.
“On top of celebrating earth in general, it’s really celebrating Isla Vista, and I think it’s really important for everyone to [have] the chance to see all the different factors that go into their community,” said EAB Earth Day Coordinator Michelle Dambaev, a second-year global studies and political science double major.
Student groups like Blunite, Life of the Party and Save the Mermaids tabled at the event, though all participating groups were barred from selling items. Instead, t-shirts, snacks and merchandize were given away in exchange for Facebook likes, answers to environmental trivia questions and a few minutes of spiel-listening. Popular attractions like the “make your own tie-dye shirt” and free ice cream also made a return from last year’s Earth Day celebration.
Artists had the opportunity to display their art to the community within an area surrounded by paintings and large black chalkboards. One exhibit of large, wooden letters reading “hope” invited attendees to inscribe whatever they had on their minds in Sharpie.
Several local bands and musical groups provided live entertainment throughout the afternoon, including rock group The Crash Landings, UCSB’s a cappella ensemble Naked Voices and reggae band The Olés. Performances took place at the park’s installed amphitheater, as attendees watched from the sloping hill overlooking the stage.
Some local political leaders and hopefuls did not miss the opportunity to connect with the I.V. community. Joan Hartmann, a candidate for third district county supervisor, was seen handing out flyers with a staff member and encouraging Isla Vista residents to vote in the upcoming election. Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider, also a candidate to represent the Central Coast in Congress, toured the event as well.
Adam Porté, who supervises the I.V. Recreation and Parks District’s Adopt-A-Block program, promoted his initiative for new cigarette butt bins among festival attendees. He plans to install the bins along all beach-access points on Del Playa Drive, using a $5,000 grant recently awarded to his team. Longtime I.V. resident Jay Freeman, another contender for the county supervisor seat, said events like Chilla Vista and Earth Day help connect people with similar interests and cultivate a sense of community.
“We have families here; we have community college students, UCSB students, even the Isla Vista homeless, which I think still make a pretty big impact on our community,” Dambaev said. “I think it’s just really important to see a mixture of everybody working together and really getting along.”
Chilla Vista was started by a UCSB sociology class several years ago, but organizing was eventually picked up by IVCRC after the class dropped the event, according to IVCRC Recruitment Coordinator and EAB Treasurer Briana Zhen, a second-year economics and accounting and environmental studies double major.
Zhen said she is sometimes surprised at her peers’ neutral stances on environmental issues and believes events like Saturday’s offer those who have not “dabbled with environmentalism before” a chance to do so.
“I’ve had people from my econ and accounting classes go up to me, and they find out that I’m also an ES major and they tell me, ‘Why do you care about the environment? You study economics,’” Zhen said. “And I think that’s exactly why you should care about the environment. If you are studying anything in business, economics or even any other field, you should have regard for the environment.”