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Ubiquitous weed focus of Bonedale event

Stewart Oksenhorn
Dandelion Day kicks off with the non-motorized Procession of the Species Parade, which includes, among other things, a solar-powered oven. The parade starts at 11 a.m., followed by fun at Sopris Park.
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Wherever oceans of green grass are marred by islands of yellow, people curse the name of the ubiquitous dandelion, the weed that pesters allergy sufferers and lawnkeepers alike.And then there’s Carbondale.”We’re, like, ‘Hallelujah! Dandelions!'” said Carbondalian Soozie Friedmar.

Friedmar is a co-organizer, with Mary Harris, of Dandelion Day, an event devoted not to eradicating, but celebrating the lowly yellow growth. Dandelion Day, set for tomorrow, Saturday, May 21, seems a perfect representation of Carbondale culture. It is an environment-focused event in an eco-friendly town. (In the January issue of Plenty, a magazine devoted to sustainable living, Carbondale was written up beneath a headline that called it “a place with major eco-mojo.”) Like much of the activity in Carbondale, music is a big component of Dandelion Day. And in its origins, Dandelion Day has a haphazard quality that seems to fit with the town itself.Seven years ago, members of the Carbondale Environmental Board noticed that the town had plum forgotten to spray Sopris Park for the previous few years. The way the board saw it, that was a fortuitous oversight; absent herbicides, the park could be termed organic. And the fact that dandelions now had free rein over the area wasn’t so bad.”Through research, they found that the dandelion is rich in medicinal values,” said Friedmar, who heads the Solar in the Schools program for Carbondale-based Solar Energy International. “It’s got that weed stigma, and people still want to get rid of them. But it’s edible; it’s medicinal.”

Dandelion roots, chopped and roasted, make a fine tea, with the richness of coffee. Its leaves are one of nature’s most nutritious vegetables, aiding with digestion, congestion and water retention. Steeped in water, dandelion flowers are useful for all sorts of skin maladies, from sunburn to insect bites. Dandelions also have their downside, causing allergic reactions and spoiling expanses of green. Moreover the weed is an indicator – but not a cause – of overly acidic soil. On balance, Carbondale found the dandelion’s benefits outweighed its disadvantages, and the weed was named the official town flower. The Environmental Board taught people how to milk those benefits – and for the unpersuaded, how to rid a lawn of dandelions without herbicides.In the early years of Dandelion Day, event founder Doc Philip brewed dandelion beer, and there was a dandelion wine competition. The day is now alcohol-free, so such beverages are no longer quaffed. But there are still plenty of creative examples of how to utilize the dandelion: There is the Dandelion Bake-off (won last year by a dandelion potsticker), and demonstrations of solar cooking featuring the dandelion. The festivities begin with the non-motorized Procession of the Species Parade down Main Street at 11 a.m.; expect to see numerous dandelions among the costumed species in the procession.

Also scheduled are a parade of musical acts, including headliner the Bruce Hayes Band from 3-5 p.m., plus Boneyard, Devon Alves and the Mellow Rollers, and the African drum group Kelele. And with Solar Energy International as the presenting organization, it’s no surprise that there are plenty of eco-friendly elements to the day, including informational booths manned by environmental organizations (National Resource Defense Council, Sierra Club) and organic farmers.”Now the whole event has morphed into our Earth Day celebration, with the dandelion as our symbol,” said Friedmar. “The more we thought about it, the more we saw what a good symbol it was – the dandelion seed gets blown and proliferates, and our environmental message can get spread the same way.”Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is stewart@aspentimes.com


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