CANNON BEACH - In a town where, for many residents, every day is Earth Day, what's the big deal about having 12 Earth Days in a row?

Well, the tufted puffins - those black birds with white faces, thick orange and yellow bills and long plumes behind the eyes - are coming home to Haystack Rock. The popular birds will be welcomed by Cannon Beach Elementary School students on Earth Day, April 22.

If that isn't enough to celebrate earth's gifts, how about 12 days of activities and exhibits, from the "Landscape of the Whale" quilt exhibit by North Oregon Coast artists at the Cannon Beach History Center and Museum, to a walk along a proposed nature trail in the city or a day filled with a "pet and people" parade," street fair and earth-friendly presentations?

"It's the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, and we thought it was important to make it a much bigger splash," said Suzanne Kindland, who with her husband, Jim Kingwell, helped to organize the event. Both operate Icefire Glassworks in Cannon Beach.

It wasn't difficult to attract the interest of others in town, she added. "During the past year, there's been an incredible surge of energy among businesses to make sure we're promoting Cannon Beach."

In past years, Kindland said, Earth Day had the feeling of being a "stepchild" event, held just before the town's much bigger three-day "Spring Unveiling" arts show the first weekend in May.

Now, the 12 Days of Earth Day will segue immediately into Spring Unveiling, so visitors can have a taste of what Cannon Beach is known for: its natural surroundings and its abundance of art.

Ed Johnson and students from the English/Spanish conversation class at Elk Creek Terrace are getting ready for the "pets and people" parade on April 24.

Johnson, who is well known in Cannon Beach for his conservation efforts, and those in the language class are creating papier-mache puffin masks to wear in the parade. His arms also will be covered with papier-mache "wings" and his feet, Johnson said, will be orange.

This is the sixth year that Cannon Beach has celebrated Earth Day, and Johnson, who was among the first organizers, remembers how small the event was the first year. Some booths were set up in the elementary school gym, but few people bothered to come.

"Then we said we need to be some place where we can be seen," Johnson said. "We had a parade that wove through town on the sidewalk."

Several organizations set up information booths in the U.S. Bank parking lot, and city parks employees selected a winner of the "Gaylord Nelson" award. The late U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, Gaylord Nelson, was a founder of Earth Day, and an award is presented to someone in Cannon Beach every year who is active in efforts to preserve the natural surroundings. Johnson was the Gaylord Nelson winner in 2007.

This year, the Gaylord Nelson award will be given out at a community potluck from 6 to 8 p.m. April 23 in the Presbyterian Church. Members of the Clatsop Nehalem tribe will offer an Earth Day invocation before the potluck.

"Earth Day is the best day of the year," Johnson said. "It's better than Christmas, if you ask me.

"We have to be better stewards of the planet. I can't think of a better way to show how united we need to be to show our concern for the planet."

As always, the parade will include anyone and any pets wishing to participate. Beginning at 11 a.m., the parade will form at the corner of Fir and Antler, then amble up the middle of Hemlock Street to the U.S. Bank.

At least 18 organizations, from the Wildlife Center of the North Coast to the Cannon Beach Farmers Market, will participate in the Earth, Wind and Sea Street Fair, with booths set up on the U.S. Bank parking lot.

Beginning at 1 p.m. Saturday, several presentations will be made at the chamber of commerce community hall. Topics will include how to raise backyard chickens, growing an edible garden in containers, establishing local community gardens, cultivating flowers and planning a produce garden on the North Oregon Coast.

Throughout the 12 days, the Haystack Rock Awareness Program will have interpreters on the beach at low tides to talk about the puffins and other birds on Haystack Rock and sea creatures in the marine garden.

Like a kid anticipating a major holiday, Johnson said he is happy that the Earth Day event is sharing time with Spring Unveiling.

"That's the connection; it shows a transition of the world outside to a concentration of what the community is doing inside," he said. "I'm pretty excited about what's going to happen in the community."

It's a holiday, said Cannon Beach Chamber of Commerce Director Jeff Jewell that "I'd like for us to corner the market on. It's a great off-season event for us."

The unusual 12-day-long Earth Day is receiving publicity throughout Oregon and Washington, Jewel said. Environmental magazines are seeking information, and regional publications have caught wind of it.

"It seems to be an event that has some legs," Jewel said.

The energy that community organizations and local businesses have put into the Earth Day celebration reinforces the concept of marketing Cannon Beach to "eco-tourists," those who are interested in exploring the environment around the area, Jewell added.

While Suzanne Kindland said she is looking forward to the Gaylord Nelson dinner, and Ed Johnson enjoys the parade, Jewell is anticipating the "welcoming" ceremony the elementary students are planning for the tufted puffins. They will unfurl a banner that greets the birds and, along with some research they have done on their feathered friends, they have learned a song, written by Donna Lenius, the volunteer coordinator and AmeriCorps worker for the Haystack Rock Awareness Program.

The song talks about three tufted puffins nesting on Haystack Rock, then two, then one, all "flap, flappin,' flapping their wings real hard to find fish to eat.

Finally, the last verse goes:

"No tufted puffins nesting on Haystack Rock.

Wait a minute, where'd they all go?

They must have gone back out to the sea.

But they'll be back on Haystack Rock come spring."


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