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Ecofest abundant with larger than life animals

KINGSTON — When festival-goers of Ecofest walked onto the grounds of the Stillwaters Environmental Education Center last weekend, they saw a black, white and pink-spotted animal that isn’t typically seen in North Kitsap’s wetland habitats.

“Hi. I’m a GOOD COW. I stay away from streams and wetlands,” read the note pinned to the front of Kingston resident Tom James’ costume.

Needless to say, he won a prize in the festival’s first Wild in the Watershed Species Parade.

While community members dressed as birds, frogs, raindrops, rabbits and other native wildlife circulated the Earth Day festival on April 19, the parade garnered various awards for the costumes including one for two sisters dressed as bunny rabbits, 3-year-old Chole and 5-year-old Aubrey Gelpieryn.

Sheila Sullivan won an honorable mention for her black raven costume and Peg Tillery won for best costume in the adult category for her bald eagle costume, which featured thick white feathers.

Even kids who didn’t have costumes got a little help from Val Koehler of Kitsap County’s Department of Community Development, who was dressed up as “Mert the Salmon” and handed out paper masks in the shape of fish heads.

“Look, there goes a school of fish,” Tillery cried out excitedly as three kids walked in front of her wearing the masks during the parade.

Aubrey Gelpieryn said she was happy to see all the children participate, even if they didn’t have a costume.

“I liked that the kids joined in the parade,” she said.

“The kids like learning about the environment in a fun way,” added her mother, Deborah Gelpieryn. “They really had a fun time here.”

Kathy Molesh was stationed at the wetlands booth and told visitors about how important the sensitive areas are to North Kitsap’s environment.

Using a plastic relief map that represented a neighborhood, she showed how various chemicals and waste, including fertilizers and oil from cars, were present in neighborhoods. Then after a “rain shower,” Molesh explained how the rain and sediment would collect in the wetland areas, which were represented by green sponges on the map.

“The big take home is that wetlands are a filter and a sponge,” she said. “We’re trying to change people’s feelings about wetlands. Most people think they are mosquito-breeding grounds.”

But without the wetlands, large amounts of unfiltered sediment would be running through the streams, she added.

Koehler was having difficulty getting the point of her costume across to the curious, noting most people asked what she was.

“I’m a wild fish because I have an adipose fin,” she said, pointing to the back of her costume, to the fin located behind her knees. “If I were a hatchery fish, they’d clip it off. Some people thought I was a shark, but I explained to them the adipose fin.”

Ralph Marshall, who was dressed up as the Easter Bunny, was chatting with the salmon and eagle about his environmental practices.

“I recycle and compost at home,” Marshall said as Koehler and Tillery applauded with their costumed fins and claws.

“Yea, this bunny is a good steward,” Tillery said.

Evell Corral of Seattle was pleasantly surprised at the refreshingly laidback atmosphere of the event.

“I’m having a great time here. It’s so relaxing with the singing,” she said, noting the Carpenter Creek chorus that was performing at the time. “Especially coming from Seattle, you get so caught up in the city life and here you care about everything.”

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