TERRANAUTS All ages explore the interior space of Jessica Martin’s recycled-plastic-bag ‘aerocene,’ the centerpiece and highlight of the second annual Climate Fest in Healdsburg Plaza. High school teacher Linus Lancaster made it happen at the city’s April 21 Environmental Awareness Day. (Photo by Rick Tang)

It was a hopeful spring Sunday in Healdsburg. No better weather, location or company could be asked for to celebrate the Earth at the second annual Climate Fest on April 21, produced by Climate Action Healdsburg citizen’s group and the City of Healdsburg.

PEDAL POWER Anne Arquit Niederberger at the ‘Move! Healdsburg’ table on April 21. (Photo by Christian Kallen)

More than 70 booths, tables, food stands and exhibits radiated down the octopus arms of the Plaza, providing insight and inspiration aplenty. They included an illuminating breakaway diagram showing what happens to mattresses when they are properly recycled, from Recology; a surprisingly humbling “How Much Do We Know About Climate Change” questionnaire; the chance to join crowdsourced Air Quality Index (AQI) monitoring with a sensor in the nearest backyard, and much more.

Elsewhere, high school techies from an AAUW program extolled the value of piezoelectricity to unsuspecting passersby, and food vendors gave away as much product as they sold (if in smaller measures). While major sponsor Enso Village offered handmade seed bombs, Move! Healdsburg encouraged kids to pedal-blend their own smoothies, and HHS art teacher Linus Lancaster showed off a beaver house designed to provide live video streams of the Russian River, both above and below the surface, as it wends through Healdsburg.

ART TEACHER Linus Lancaster introduced his “beaver house analogue.”

It wasn’t Lancaster’s only job that afternoon. About 1:30pm, he fired up an electric blower to inflate a 50-by-14-foot “aerocene,” an art project by Jessica Martin. Associated with the international Aerocene movement, the inflatable sack is an “airborne, lighter-than-air form made solely from reused plastic bags,” an aerial solar-powered sculpture to ride the global breeze. 

While not designed to float (in some circumstances solar heat can provide lift) this aerocene was elevating all the same: to merely walk inside the space with fellow aeronauts of all ages and stripes, cohabitating an interior world surrounded by a thin transparent film of plastic … the metaphor was painfully beautiful.

Though not one of Martin’s own creative works, it bears her imprint. Martin and Lancaster built this one long so people could walk inside, but she hopes to change its shape and allow it to float for a West Side School open house next month. “I have a feeling it will be making appearances at more events, and we may even make it bigger each year—at least until we can get plastic bags banned,” Martin said.

Ty Benoit and the Climate Action Healdsburg put on the event.

“I am not sure of the numbers, but it seemed to me like it was twice the size of last year!” enthused Ty Benoit, the director of egalitarian Climate Action Healdsburg who largely organized the event, corralling participants and supporters with enthusiasm and hard work.

“The theme for this international Earth Day is focused on ending plastic pollution,” Benoit said. “The aerocene balloon definitely helped us to understand the challenge …”

For those who attended as much as those who volunteered, it paid off. “We distributed over 700 free tamales, burritos, dim sum, ceviche, 400 small 4-ounce drinks, 700 Earth Cookies and 400 popsicles”—berry, mango or horchata, Benoit said.

Rocio Rocks the Plaza

“We want to inspire people to make personal changes, not through fear, but because we can all play a part,” Benoit said. “We had over 70 vendors/booths, and they all explained in their application how they could help reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.”

As the Earth Day cookies ran out and the horchata disappeared, Rocio La Dama de La Cumbia took the stage for her third energetic salsa show in Healdsburg, this time wearing a spangled, clinging pink dress and a matching cowboy hat. Take that, Beyoncé!

“In speaking with some of the members on the organizing committee, they felt the event served its purpose,” said Matt Milde, the city’s Recreation Supervisor. “By having the community come together, learn how they can be proactive in environmental protection, and ensure people are aware of available resources, it was a success.”   

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Christian Kallen has called Healdsburg home for over 30 years. A former travel writer and web producer, he has worked with Microsoft, Yahoo, MSNBC and other media companies, usually in an editorial capacity. He started reporting locally in 2008, moving from Patch to the Sonoma Index-Tribune to the Kenwood Press before joining the Healdsburg Tribune in 2022.


  1. The climate change here is so dramatic. One day it is 82F and the next 62F. Today the temperature went from 72F to 47F in one 24 hour period! It’s crazy! It amazes me how people and plants and animals can survive such wild temperature changes.
    Some days it rains. Some days it is sunny. Some days it is foggy.
    All of this climate change is so stressful.

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