By Danielle Achin
FRAMINGHAM – Earth Day Festival Director Donna Kramer Merritt has always been passionate about the environment, but it wasn’t until she saw An Inconvenient Truth in 2006 that she realized how important it was to spread awareness of a healthy lifestyle not just for the body.
After countless presentations on climate change in the hopes of getting people to wake up to the climate emergency, the idea to hold a festival where the community could come and learn what they could do came into play.
Merritt described this idea as “A festival where organizations, nonprofits and other businesses invested in sustainability could share their ideas, visions and work with our community, and people could learn to make more sustainable choices.”
The Earth Day Festival came to be in 2011.
Merritt directed the festival for six years before needing a break from the stress of organizing the event.
Merritt said Michael Croci gratefully stepped up as director from 2017-2020.
In 2020, which would have been the 10th anniversary of the event, was canceled due to the impacts of COVID, but Merritt and Croci wouldn’t let that completely ruin the event.
“The Earth Day Festival team decided to hold a socially distanced “clean up Framingham” day, instead of the festival. People loved this idea, and that event became the successful “keep Framingham Beautiful” organization headed by Michael Croci to this day,” she said.
In 2021, Croci had stepped down as director in order to focus on “Keep Framingham Beautiful”, and Merritt stepped back into the director’s role.
Merritt said the team agreed COVID-19 had shifted everyone’s priorities, and the team decided to rethink the festival for 2022, so it would be more sustainable for the people running it.
“Our theme for the 10th Anniversary was to keep it simple and true to our roots. It meant a smaller festival, about half the size of our 2019 event, and focused mostly on environmental stakeholders like our municipal organizations and schools, environmental non-profits, grassroot eco-friendly groups, recycling efforts, great music of course, and just a veryfew “vendors” of upcycled or eco-friendly products.
“We also decided to support local restaurants by encouraging people to buy lunch locally, or bring their own with them, instead of bringing in food vendors,” she added.
Merritt also said since they changed the layout into a circular format that everyone seemed to enjoy, and with fewer exhibitors, they were able to create a real sense of community and inclusiveness everyone felt good about.
Now, the Earth day Festival is in need of a director for its 11th year in 2023.
Merritt said she didn’t want just anyone to fill the position.
“It feels important to have someone who has been to our festivals in the past, feels passionate about the environmental message of the festival, but also understands its fun and community centric vibe,” she said.
“After 10+ years, the festival is a well-oiled machine. It is imbued with uniqueness each year, but there is lots of institutional memory and forward momentum. We are looking for someone who is willing to learn the ropes. I will be mentoring for the 2023 festival and then move forward with the mission in the coming years,” she added.
Despite the festival running on a very slim budget, Merritt said there is an opportunity for a stipend for this position and can be discussed with the right person to make sure they feel their time has value.
Along with mentoring and sharing her knowledge to the next director in charge, Merritt explained the importance of time needed invested in planning this event.
She said, “As far as hours go, in our new, smaller, more sustainable format, this position will probably require about 200-300+ hours between January and April, though the first year there will be a learning curve, so the time is approximate. … There is also a great team who’ve been running the festival for years who share in the workload.”
Merritt said she cannot wait to see who will apply for the position to continue the legacy of the Earth Day Festival.
If interested in being the director email FraminghamEarthDay@gmail.com
When asked her favorite part of being a director, she had a hard time pointing out just one.
“My favorite part of being the director is seeing all the happy, engaged and inspired people at the festival, enjoying the music, making new friends, and learning about how to live more consciously on this earth. I love hearing about all the things people have learned, or have been inspired about,” she said. “It’s amazing to feel like I’ve maybe made a difference by helping to bring together all of these people for the common goal of taking better care of our Earth.”
Merritt loves the camaraderie and shared passion with the Earth Day Festival Team, and to be part of a group coming together to create a beloved community event.
The most difficult aspect of the director position Merritt said she faced was keeping all the balls in the air, managing all the different parts and people, while maintaining a balance with her personal life and running her business, but she wouldn’t have traded any of the years she’s spent with the organization for anything.
Even though Merritt is officially stepping down, she said she has a vision for the organization for when she leaves.
“My vision is for the festival to maintain its grass-roots feel. That it stays authentic to its mission of environmental sustainability without getting caught up in commercialism and politics. That it remains a mainstay of the Framingham Community for years to come, celebrating our amazing earth, and sharing ways to take care of the well-being of our precious planet.”
“Additionally, I am hoping to see the City increase its partnership role with us. The DPW in particular has played a very important role in the festival since year one, and I am hoping to get more involvement from the city to help make the festival easier to sustain in future years.”
Danielle Achin is a fall 2022 SOURCE intern. She is a senior English major with a concentration in journalism and a minor in psychology at Framingham State University. Danielle has been an athlete since she started gymnastics at age 4. She joined the Framingham State cheerleading team freshman year and recently won the 2022 National Cheerleaders Association (NCA) National Championship for the first time in Framingham State history. She is also one of the Sports editors for Framingham State’s student newspaper The Gatepost.