Team TOA and the nonprofits

“Team TOA and the nonprofits” sounds like a band, doesn’t it?! But no, we’re just really excited to be collaborating with two local nonprofits that we wanted to take a moment to tell you about.

Both organizations, Gastrojax Inc. (as Gastrofest) and River City Eco Foundation (as River City Eco Fest), were creators this year at the huge crowdfunding event in Jacksonville called One Spark, so we’d wanted to tell you about them before that event, but there was just way too much to do! Preparations for One Spark began looong before April. Here’s Eco Fest organizer Joe Crespi promoting the project at a U.S. Green Building Council North Florida Green Social.

Tell it, Joe!

For those of you not in Jacksonville, let’s back up a second and explain what One Spark is. Here’s a blurb from the One Spark website: “For five days in April, Creators from all over the world will light up downtown with projects in art, innovation, music, science and technology. They’ll showcase their best ideas for a chance to access $310,000 in crowdfunds and cash awards, 3.25 million dollars in capital investments and direct contributions from more than 150,000 attendees and backers around the globe.”

Eco Fest’s three-tent palace at One Spark.

And, yes, it really was as big of a deal as it sounds: It lasted five days, there were 610 projects, more than a quarter of a million people came to the festival, which was spread over 20 city blocks, and over $363,000 was awarded, not to mention the individual donations people made!

Live music and an idea/art board made the Eco Fest booth a fun place to hang during One Spark!

Believe me, creators worked hard for every single vote and every single penny. So to all of you who came by to visit, who voted for, and/or who donated to Gastrofest (project #20026) and River City Eco Fest (project #20572), both of these organizations, as well as The Organic Adventurer and the city that both of these projects are going to benefit, thank you!

Crespi pitching the Eco Fest project to the crowd at One Spark.

Now to the nonprofits and the events they will be staging! Let’s start with River City Eco Fest since it’s coming up first—this Saturday, May 17, as a matter of fact. This will be the third year of the festival also known as the River City Challenge, so some of you may already be familiar with it. Here’s a blurb from the Eco Fest site:

“Jacksonville’s annual environmental, music festival and paddle sports race to benefit the River City Eco Foundation returns to Metropolitan Park on May 17, 2014! Come out and enjoy a day chock full of FREE family-friendly entertainment featuring national recording artists, an interactive KidZone, vendor market, our extensive Eco Village, awesome local food from a variety of Jacksonville food trucks, and tasty libations! Following the 6-Mile race on the St. Johns River, we are proud to present an Outdoors Expo which will bring together the nation’s top manufacturers to showcase their product lines. This segment will also feature a variety of workshops and demonstrations throughout the day. We are a group of passionate individuals from all walks of life sharing one common goal: to create a self-sustaining, free eco/music festival to benefit the community.”

Here’s a bit of fun video by Mike Shea from last year’s festival:

This past year, festival organizer Joe Crespi formed a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, the River City Eco Foundation, so that the event would forever benefit the kinds of environmental causes that those involved are passionate about. This year’s proceeds will go to a project near and dear to the hearts of all of us Eco-Heads. Crespi explains:

“The ‘Floating Free’ portion of the River City Eco Festival involves a community driven visioning plan for Exchange Island, one of the only uninhabited islands in the middle of an urban city of our size in the U.S. Ideas for the island include a kayak launch, bike trails, zip lines, primitive camping and swimming. While Exchange Island is a great vegetative feature in our city, the St. Johns River is wide and tidal, leaving only short windows for recreation. Utilizing Exchange Island from the Arlington River allows for easy access to a protected aquatic area ripe for recreational possibilities. Learn more about ‘Floating Free’ on the St. Johns River and all we can do on Exchange Island!” –


I don’t know about you, but one thing about festivals that bugs me is how UN-eco-friendly they usually are. At the end of any outdoor festival, all you see is a sea of trash: plastic bottles, cigarette butts, paper, food waste—it’s a mess! So as an event board member, The Organic Adventurer has worked hard, all of us have, to ensure that this festival will be the cleanest one you’ve ever been to.

The UNF Environmental Center has arranged for reusable stainless steel souvenir beer cups. You’ll be quaffing brew out of these beauties for years!


Food vendors will be using recycled and recyclable food service materials, there will be volunteers on hand, including yours truly, to help fest-goers separate their waste at the waste stations, and attendees are asked to not smoke on the grounds. Cigarette butts are hard to clean up and hazardous to wildlife!

Speaking of cleaning up, organizers and volunteers cleaned the festival site recently after another festival was held in Metro Park. We gathered over 100 pounds of trash, keeping it out of our precious river! We’ll be doing another cleanup the morning after Eco Fest, just to make 100% sure that we put on the cleanest festival we can!

Cleaning up Metro Park for Ecofest.

Cleaning up Metro Park for Eco Fest.

One big happy bunch of Eco-Heads!

The Organic Adventurer will also be participating in the Eco Village programming. All of our favorite nonprofits will be out during the day, spreading the word about their important missions. There will be a full day of eco presentations going on: permaculture, river-friendly gardening and more. The Organic Adventurer will present “Top 10 Ways to Lead a Healthier, Greener Life” around 1:00 p.m.

Come with questions!

Sooo, competitions of all kinds, music, food and drink, vendors, product and equipment demos, nonprofits and eco presentations, a theater exhibition, a kids’ zone full of activities, “play”shops (paddling techniques, try a SUP, etc.)…the fun will go on all day long, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, May 17, in Metropolitan Park. There’s way too much to list it all here, so visit the website and Facebook page, and I’ll see you there!

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