by Rhiannon Fabian

A cobra slithering next to a caribou in downtown Spokane might cause a bit of a commotion on any average day, but Earth Day allows for some exceptions. Especially when the caribou are made of cardboard and cloth and the cobra is made of three bed sheets topped with a paper mache head.

These aren't the only "animals" that will be parading through Riverfront Park this Sunday in the second annual Procession of the Species, but they are among the more interesting. These creatures will be accompanied by several hundred other representations of species made largely out of recyclable, natural or donated materials. The official theme of this year's event is global preservation through recognizing our local connection to the world around us.

"It's an artistic celebration of the natural world," says Amanda Butcher, spokesperson for the Earth Day Committee 2001. "There should be a public celebration of the beauty we see in our area."

Procession of the Species originated in Olympia, Wash., and made its way down to Portland before being noticed by Bernadine VanThiel from Spokane. She was tired of reading all the bad news that constantly bombarded her from the pages of newspapers, and she was looking for a way to bring something good to the community.

"I heard about Portland two years ago, and I decided to go down and see what it was about," says VanThiel. "There was a sheer exuberance of joy. That's what I experienced in Portland. It's to celebrate all that's good and wonderful in the world."

While cities like Olympia have had up to 2,500 participants and about 15,000 spectators, Spokane's Procession is still trying to gain recognition in the community. There were about 300 participants last year, and they're expecting more this year.

"It's a community building event," says VanThiel. "For people who worry about pro-life issues, this is the biggest one of all. We're supposed to be living in cooperation with the natural world."

She adds that human survival is dependent on the natural world and this is an opportunity to celebrate it. Everyone is welcome to join in the celebration, either as a participant or an observer.

"If people want to be in it, just show up at the butterfly with homemade creations," says Butcher, referring to the sculpture on Howard and Mallon. "The only rules are, you can't bring live pets, no written words and no motorized vehicles."

"There are no words in nature, and we're representing nature," says VanThiel. "It's not a place for advocacy."

This is not to say a cause can't be represented in the Procession. The Lands Council is participating in the event to bring awareness to one of the most critically endangered mammals in the United States. The Council is having 34 people adorn themselves in handmade cardboard and paper mache caribou costumes.

"It's to bring the status and predicament of caribou to people by representing them," says Rein Attemann, forest watch/Selkirk coordinator for the Lands Council. "We want to represent the 34 caribou remaining because that's how many are left in the lower 48 states."

To be more specific, the caribou have made their home in the Selkirk Mountains of northeastern Washington, North Idaho and southern British Columbia. The caribou rely on old-growth forests to survive, but this has proved to be a difficult habitat with the increase of logging, road building and heavy human usage in recent decades.

The caribou in the Procession will celebrate the living animals while still recognizing the problem.

The Radha Yoga Center has a different take on what they want their species to represent in the Procession. Their nearly 20-foot-long cobra is much more than just a snake.

"There's a certain type of yoga called kundalini yoga," says Deborah Pohorski, instructor at the Radha Yoga Center. "One of the symbols for it is latent or potential energy, and the cobra represents that."

The idea behind their creation is that yoga is as essential to the body as is nature. Pohorski says you have to clean up your mind before you can clean up the environment.

"Yoga is a way to get a friendly inner-environment," says Pohorski. "It starts with us and reaches out into the community."

The cobra's head is a paper mache creation, while the rest of the body somewhat resembles a Chinese dragon. They used chicken wire and bamboo to form the cylindrical body and covered it in sheets painted different shades of brown and copper. They attached sticks to the inside of the body for about 10 people to hold, and these will serve to keep the cobra upright.

"I think it will hold," says Pohorski with an edge of uncertainty in her voice.

Festivities can also be enjoyed before and after the Procession in the Lilac Bowl, east of the clock tower in Riverfront Park. From 10 am until 5 pm, there will be various booths set up and four bands playing music in the background throughout the day.

"Right now, we have 45 booths and that doesn't include the vendors," says Attemann.

The booths range from state agencies like the Washington Environmental Council to non-profit and environmentally friendly organizations. Along with distributing information, several of the booths will also be giving out tree seedlings to plant.

Attemann adds: "A lot of them will have hands-on kids' activities." Some of the things kids can look forward to are building kites and a scavenger hunt. As with the Procession, the booths are just another way to bring awareness to the natural world around us.

The Procession of the Species begins on Sunday, April 22, at 1 pm at the butterfly in Riverfront Park and ends at around 1:30 pm with a closing ceremony at the Lilac Bowl across the river from the Opera House. Anyone who would like to participate can show up at the butterfly on Howard and Mallon at 12:45 pm with their creation. Spectators can see the Procession throughout Riverfront Park, including near the Bloomsday runners and the Red Wagon. Call: 835-4011.

More earth Day Events

Earth Day Celebration, Riverfront Park. A day of activities will include face painting and other kids' activities and live entertainment by the Occasional String Band, Planetary Refugees, Sidhe and more, on April 22 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Free. Call: 835-4011.

The Sierra Club, Friends of the Centennial Trail and other groups will have booths set up in the park on April 22, offering information on environmental issues and upcoming events.

Wings of a Bird, Children's Museum, 110 N. Post. Make a birdhouse from recycled materials and bird food, while learning more about our fine feathered friends on April 21 from noon-2 p.m. Cost: $3.75. Call: 624-KIDS.

The Procession Art Studio, 1007 N. Columbus, is offering two workshops for parade participants on April 21 from 3-5 p.m. Michael Moonbear will coordinate participants in rhythm and beat and Dawn Reinhardt will demonstrate how to move like your chosen species. Free. Call: 835-4011.

The annual Palisades Organization Cleanup is set for April 21 at 9 a.m. at Palisades City Park. Volunteers are needed to help pick up trash and barbed wire. Bring gloves and garbage bags. Baker Walking Trail Day is on April 22. The goal is to have the trail cleared and plans made for any walking bed improvements to be made at the end of the day. Call: 624-8384.

Catch the final Community Thursdays workshop at the Procession Art Studio (1007 N. Columbus) on April 19 from 6-9 p.m. Kids and adults can put finishing touches on masks, costumes, banners and other items to be used in Sunday's parade. Free. Call: 835-4011.

A Community Partnership Weekend is happening at Riverside State Park on April 21-22. Ranger Frank Dorman needs volunteers -- either individuals or groups -- to assist in easy to technically demanding projects, ranging from litter pick-up to trail restoration. Call: 625-5551.

Come celebrate cultures at EWU's World Party on campus April 21 from 3-8 p.m. Entertainment includes Hmong, Irish, Middle East and African belly dances as well as cultural display booths, opera, judo demonstrations and lots more. Free. Call: 359-6718.

Southeast Spokane County Fair @ Rockford

Fri., Sept. 20, 12 p.m.
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