A fashion show was a highlight for attendees ◆ By Mike Hiles
The 12th annual Soboba Earth Day was celebrated by more than 400 guests at the Soboba Sports Complex on April 26. About 25 vendors set up tables and canopies to invite all ages to make or take things while learning the importance of recycling and sustainability. Steven Estrada, Environmental Manager, organizes the event for the Soboba Community.
"There was no official theme this year, but we did try to focus on plastic awareness," Estrada said. "One of our giveaways was a reusable cutlery set in hopes people will be conscious and use it when they pack their lunch for work or school instead of relying on single-use plastic cutlery."
Students from the preschool participated in a Recycled Fashion show that had been a take-home project. As proud family members watched, the children were introduced by preschool director Dianne King as they displayed their fashionable creations. She said Estrada approached the school about a month ago with the idea.
"Every day is Earth Day at our preschool," King said. "We always recycle and repurpose items and explain to the children why that's important."
She said the fashion creations were a project for the students to do at home with their families so everyone could get involved. She said she placed a large collection box at the school entrance so when parents and grandparents dropped off the children they could also drop off empty cereal boxes, egg cartons, newspapers and other items that could be utilized when the kids came up with an idea for an outfit.
"We had a few 'Pinterest' parents who really went all out and rallied everyone to participate," King said. "It was nice to give parents a chance to get in touch with their creative side." King was part of the small planning committee for the event that brainstormed on ideas for vendors, activities and takeaways for the day. "The biggest challenge was coming up with new ideas and increasing community involvement, but our committee provided some great ideas," Estrada said. "For me, the biggest highlight was the increased participation."
Harold Arres, site manager at the T.A.N.F. Prevention Resource Center at Soboba, worked with UCR Recreation to bring its mobile climbing wall to the site. There was a constant stream of enthusiastic climbers throughout the four-hour long event that were being helped to go as high as they could and safely rappel back down the 25-foot tall "rock" structure.
Melissa Arviso is an instructional aide for the kindergarten class at the Soboba Tribal Preschool and she helped visitors make seed bombs. After they rolled out a small amount of natural clay, she sprinkled potting soil on it and added wildflower seeds. She rolled it back into a ball of clay and put it inside a paper bag to be taken home and planted in the ground to one day sprout beautiful flowers.
Ingrid Bradley, a Parent Partner with Native Challenge, showed how a bird feeder could be made from a large pipe cleaner and Cheerios. She also provided details about some of the things the Riverside-San Bernardino County Indian Health department does by arranging home visits and offering parent/child interactive activities.
The Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians and Santa Rosa Band of Cahuilla Indians were present with booths on sustainability and things their tribes are doing to preserve and protect their lands.
"It's always great learning about new ideas and concepts at conferences we attend; especially what other tribes are doing," Estrada said. "I like the concept of water quality protection and erosion control using Native plants."
Other vendors such as Riverside County Master Gardeners and California Native Plants explained the importance of indigenous plants and how and what to grow. GRID Alternatives and New Day Solar offered information on solar energy for homes and businesses.
"I am really grateful and appreciate all the support of the Tribal Council and Tribal Members," Estrada said. "I'm also thankful for all the hard work from my staff members Michelle Kaliher and Jennifer Salazar and the help and support from the committee in addition to all the participation from the various departments and organizations."
Aside from Soboba's Environmental Department, the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians also had a presence with representatives from its public works, public safety, fire and cultural departments, Soboba Casino and the Soboba Foundation.
Jessica Valdez and Emily Lopez, with the Soboba Cultural Center, offered taste tests of chia seed and fruit jelly and mesquite nut bars. Recipes and detailed information about the nutritional value of each of these indigenous items were shared with those who stopped by the booth.
"I'd like to do even more Native foods projects for Earth Day in the future," said Cultural Center Director Carrie Garcia.
Sparky, a desert tortoise, was one of several creatures brought to the event by The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens' Wildlife on Wheels program. Outreach staff member Kate Silveira put Sparky on the ground for kids to gather around and get a close-up look at him. She answered all their questions about the 55-year-old herbivore, an animal who only eats plants.
Animal trainer/presenter Claudia Garcia shared tabletop cases containing a variety of mammals, insects and reptiles. She said it's important to show people a variety of animals and explain how they are important to our environment.
"We bring awareness about conservation and animal welfare," said Garcia, who lives in Palm Desert, where the zoo is located. "Bugs are key to our environment."
Silveira shared details about several reptiles, while Garcia shined as a "creepy crawlies" expert.
"We like to empower kids to be superheroes for tortoises and other animals," Silveira said. "When they learn they have the potential to save an animal by simply picking up a piece of trash and that they can do something so important without waiting for a grown-up to help, it empowers them."
She explained to visitors that the Western Chuckwalla, a large lizard indigenous to the area, is a great gardener and adept at handling pest control by eating gnats and mosquitoes.