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GREEN ART: Crews are setting up for the Des Moines Arts Festival while keeping the environment in mind

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You'll find it a little difficult to get around downtown Des Moines the next few days as crews shut down roads around Western Gateway Park to set up for the Des Moines Arts Festival. The three day event gets underway Friday morning. Organizers expect thousands of visitors from all over the country for the award winning festival celebrating arts and culture. People running the show say they also try to celebrate the environment by adding a green initiative every year.

With 200,000 visitors, 185 artists and 30 art related activities, Des Moines Arts Festival Executive Director Stephen King says, "We generate a lot of trash at an event like this." King says that's why organizers are getting creative when it comes to getting rid of waste.

You may remember six large recycling kiosks last year. King says, "The recycling bins were really popular." Six artists made the structures out of found, applied or donated objects. Three will be back this year along with airbrush artists designing more during the festival. King says, "The two of them, they're going to airbrush three of the boxes, which is going to be really cool because it's a completely different art we're trying to engage our guests in."

The new green initiative this year is to use technology to cut down on paper use. King says the three jurors, people who rate the art, will use an iPhone or iPad app to judge the pieces. And, King carries an iPad instead of a large binder to keep important information at his fingertips. He says this step might seem small, but it adds up by saving the festival $2,000 to $3,000 on paper. King says, "So, we're really not spending either the dollars, or killing trees to bring all that paper down here."

King says they'll continue providing artists with water stations, instead of plastic bottles, eliminating about 3,000 bottles. And, all vendors will use compostable products, including cups made from corn. King says, "Our guests really expect us to do something, so we want to respond to that in a very positive way, creative way too."

The Des Moines Arts Festival kicks off Friday at 11 a.m., which is earlier in the day than previous years. It's located at Western Gateway park and it's free.

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