March 24, 2023

Dr. Francois Nguyen, his 3 year-old son, Mike, right, and 9 year-old son, Duke (not pictured), were on hand early Sunday to fly kite at Wishes for the Sky. (AAP staff photos by Tom LaVenture)

AAP staff report

ST. PAUL (April 25, 2010) – The constant threat of rain last Sunday didn’t hamper the spirits of Wishes for the Sky, the annual green, zero-waste interactive public art experience celebrating Earth Day alongside the Mississippi River on St. Paul’s Harriet Island.

Dozens of blue paper kites danced around the overcast sky, with operators doing their best not to cross each other’s lines – as the same breeze that kept them aloft carried the sounds of wind chimes and rushing water of the nearby Mississippi River.

Now in its third year, the official Earth Day Celebration of the City of Saint Paul, under the direction of Marcus Young, lead artist and City Artist in Residence, the event is both tranquil and vibrant in its mission as a public event that inspires individual and family relationships with the earth and the community.

The 2010 Wishes for the Sky drew more than 1,000 people yet generated only one bag of trash weighing in under 3 pounds, according to organizers.

Mike Hahm, Director of Saint Paul Parks & Recreation, said Wishes for the Sky is leading the way for environmentally sustainable events that are focused on shared experience and not consumption. Up until 2010 the nearly 5,000 attendees over three previous events have collectively generated less than 24 pounds of trash.

Instead of generating trash participants were flying wish kits and making art. There were food venders, such as Mississippi Market Natural Foods Co-op, that showcased locally grown produce and eco-friendly packaging items. Even the pickenickers that brought their own food and beverages produced reusable containers.

The event began with a ceremonial kite flight carrying wishes from Earth Day’s youngest Minnesotan, an infant born on Earth Day to Andrea Roark, and from the eldest resident, Ruth E. Peterson Anderson born July 24, 1899 in rural Balaton, in Murray County, and now residing in Marshall.

Inside the Pavilion, volunteer poetry interpreters helped people look past what the may thought was Chinese calligraphy to reveal an artistic form of English and the thoughtful poems about earth and nature.

This is where the guest picked up their kites as well, and special guest elders, Di Chen and Lynn Chen, a Mound, Minnesota couple that immigrated to Minnesota more than 40 years ago from Taiwan, greeted them and wrote their wishes on the kites in Chinese.

Outside the pavilion there were musicians Lisa Veronneau and Jiaxiang Li performing on the guzheng in a tented walkthrough area where guests could pause and enjoy food and conversation.

The “House to Touch the Wind” was back, with its bamboo and buckthorn frame that was based from a Mongolian dwelling design with a circular pattern for meditative effect when walking around it or inside.

Instillation artists and volunteers, Travis Spangler and Julia Kouneski, explained that Peter Kramer designed the structure and a team of 15 people helped put it up the day before.

“It’s all about recycling and reusing materials, said Kouneski, who explained that the sound of the wind and chimes was carried throughout Harriet Island on speakers.

She added that the peaceful event is a celebration of the outdoors, and that using the wind to make wishes for the future is a wonderful thing to do.

“The kites are all about wind so this house kind of celebrates the wind that is needed to fly the kites for the wishes,” she added. “You can touch the chimes and at the same time you are touching the wind.”

The event concluded with an open drum circle led by percussionist Marc Anderson.

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