The air on the USD campus was filled with the smells of grilled burgers and kabobs, and the sounds of live music Monday as a group of students got together to promote Earth Day.
In cooperation with the Environmental Communication class, USD Students for Environmental Engagement spent 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on the east lawn of the Muenster University Center providing food, entertainment and information regarding sustainability to passersby.
"We celebrate this almost every year," said Associate Professor Terry Robertson, who teaches Environmental Communication. "We try to gain an awareness for sustainability and things of that nature for the community. We try to use all local foods – most of this has been either homegrown from local farmers or the farmers market.
"We just try to remain local, celebrate the earth and just have a good time," he said.
"It's just to raise awareness and give people some things to think about," added student Erik Tyger. "(These are) things people don't ever think about, and we're just trying to get that message out and hope to make people step back and consider some other things for a little bit. We're hoping for a good turnout this year. It's a beautiful day."
Along with the food and entertainment, various signs were posted around the lawn that spread the message of conservation and sustainability, including a large mound of plastic bottles that illustrated how many of the containers one family goes through per year.
According to Robertson, the event – now in its eighth year – usually attracts hundreds, if not thousands of students, and raises anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000.
Some of that money is raised through food sales, while some comes in through a silent auction and raffle. Another big fundraiser was a 5k walk/run, which kicked off at 5 p.m.
The money raised this year will be donated to the South Dakota Parks and Wildlife Foundation.
Shortly after 11 a.m. Monday, USD student Kelly Horazdovsky said she hoped this year's celebration would be a big success.
"We've had a couple hungry people come by, and it's kind of a mix of undergrad and graduate (students)," she said. "The undergrads know a lot of people, which is good, and a lot of the graduates are also teaching assistants for the communications program, so we have a lot of our students hopefully coming out, too."
Horadovsky said a lot of preparation went into the Earth Day celebration to ensure its success.
The Environmental Communication class broke into "about five" different committees which then planned and promoted the event, she said.
"I was with the media committee and I helped contact some of the surrounding area newspapers and TV channels," she said. "Now we're just helping carry out the events. The logistics committee did a lot of work, and so they're directing the work that we need to get done to make it a successful day."
"It's a community service project we're required to do, so this is for a grade as well, and we want to do well," Tyger added.
While the event promised a good time for those who attended, Robertson said he hoped the students would come away from it thinking about the issues behind it.
"I just hope that (they have) a time of reflection over some of the ideas about sustainability, about local marketing, even about helping Vermillion merchants. That's what the goal is," he said.
Horazdovsky agreed, adding, "We just want them to celebrate the idea of Earth Day and have fun with it, and we're hoping the excitement that we're creating today will work to get people thinking about Earth Day and engaging them in what they can do individually to make their lifestyles more sustainable and better.
"There are a lot of things trying to get our attention today, so if we can make this a fun event and get people thinking … that'll be a success," she said.