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Dandelion Day could wither without new blood

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May 8-10 this year

By John Colson

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Sopris Sun Correspondent

The Carbondale community appears to be the only one in the U.S. that has named the dandelion as its town flower, according to a quick search of the Internet in search of other such locales.

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But Carbondale’s unique place in history, as far as dandelions and civic pride are concerned, may be in trouble if the organizers do not get a little help in staging the annual Dandelion Day, which this year is to take place on May 8-10 in Sopris Park and other venues.

The Dandelion Day planning committee recently issued an appeal to the town’s Environmental Board (or E-Board, as it is commonly known) seeking greater support and participation from E-Board members, or at least ideas about where to find additional personnel to help put on the popular event.

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Efforts to contact E-Board members for this story were not successful.

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Started in 1998

The Dandelion Day event began in 1998 as a one-day celebration of the plant, after environmental activists convinced the town to stop treating Sopris Park with herbicides and the town’s trustees gave the plant its official designation.

But what started out as a very simple event sponsored by the E-Board, with a flea market, a few booths with environmental themes and not much else, has blossomed into what this year will be three days of activities, May 8-10.

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This year’s event will feature numerous booths, a parade, live music from the park’s stage, a film at the Crystal Theater on Friday night, and a speaker offering tips about edible plants at the Crystal Theater on Friday and again on Sunday at a different location.

It is the added complexity of the celebration, along with the hard work it takes to put it on, that the current Dandelion Day Planning Committee is troubled about, according to one of the committee members, Sue Gray.

The committee currently has a half-dozen members, all volunteers, some of whom have served on the E-Board in the past or serve on it currently, Gray told The Sopris Sun this week.

The planning committee members split up the duties associated with Dandelion Day, which include arranging the live music acts [Stacy Stein] to organizing the vendors [Alyssa Reindel] to doing the advertising, creating a poster and managing the website at www.dandelionday.org [Gray], and other chores.

One huge task, Gray said, is recruiting and organizing the 15-25 volunteers needed every year to set things up on Friday, staff the various activities through the weekend and then tear it all down to restore the park to its non-festival placidity.

“Nobody wants that job,” remarked Gray. “Every year we have a new volunteer coordinator. It’s really hard to recruit volunteers.”

The overall commitment for the committee members, Gray estimated, is “as much as 270 hours,” which translates to between 40 and 50 hours per year, per committee member.

And after several years of doing the work, Gray said, she and two others — Stein and Candace Goodwin, who oversees the general organization — are ready to step down.

“It’s not burned out,” Gray said of the feelings felt by the three. “It’s just stretched thin.” She noted that she and the others each has an array of other volunteer activities, and that they each would like to step away from Dandelion Day and concentrate their energies on those other activities.

The problem

The problem, Gray said, is that none of the E-Board members have shown interest in taking part in the planning for Dandelion Day, although E-Board members Jason White and Jeff Lauckhart have offered to work as volunteers at this year’s event.

Gray conceded that the planning committee itself is partially to blame for its own feeling of being “stretched thin,” as a consequence of its work to expand and broaden the celebration.

“We keep adding on to our own burdens,” she said with a rueful grin. “We want Dandelion Day to evolve into something more than it is.”

An example of the event’s broadening effect, she said, is last year’s Dandelion Day movie, “Bringing It Home,” a documentary about the growing interest in legalizing hemp as an industrial alternative to the U.S. dependency on petroleum-based products.

The film, she said, led directly to the formation of the Colorado Hemp Education Association, a Carbondale-based organization that is advocating for hemp legalization nationwide and for ways to get a hemp industry kick-started here in Colorado now that hemp cultivation and processing is legal under the state constitution.

She also noted that Dandelion Day in Carbondale is to be featured in an upcoming edition of the Milwaukee, Wis.-based Country magazine, in an article about how the plant figures in private celebrations around the nation.

The next meeting of the Dandelion Day planning committee is on March 11, from 6-8 p.m., at Dos Gringos restaurant and coffee shop in the La Fontana Plaza, at which the public is invited to attend and participate.

The Environmental Board will meet at town hall on March 16 at 6 p.m.

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