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ABC Participates in Festival de las Plantas
The American Botanical Council was one of numerous herb, native plant, and conservation-related organizations participating in the first Festival de las Plantas celebration to honor the varied and vital roles of plants in culture and to inaugurate a new riverside park in Austin, Texas last October. The festival occurred at the new Roy G. Guerrero Colorado River Park in east Austin on the banks of the Colorado River. The theme of the festival was the celebration of the biological and cultural values of plants in the Austin community.

The process of acquiring the former river-bottom ranchland for the park took at least 30 years. With various acquisitions and donations during that time, the Roy Guerrero Park today consists of 363 acres. Between 1995 and 1999, baseball fields were built, while the park master plan ensures that it will be kept more in its "natural state," according to Ted Siff, executive director of the Austin Parks Foundation.

Austin City Council member Raul Alvarez originated the idea for the Festival. Alvarez said that the event’s main purpose was "to facilitate learning of our natural environment and take advantage of this recreational resource to bring together the community to promote the park." Other speakers at the event included U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett and other local officials.

ABC participated in this event to educate consumers on the safe use of herbal medicine and to make connections in the Austin community. Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of ABC, spoke about the historical uses of herbal medicine and modern lessons in herbal medicine. In addition, he discussed the return of herbs and their popularity as a result of affordable costs, minimal adverse effects, and their various benefits. Local herbalists Carlos Hernandez and Ginger Webb led herb walks.

The Festival de las Plantas offered numerous activities, including tree plantings, nature walks, dancing, music, lectures, and cultural ceremonies. In the morning, TreeFolks and the City of Austin organized a community tree planting along with a blessing ceremony of the trees. There were traditional Aztec dances and ceremonial performances, along with booths from various food, farm, art, plant, and environmental organizations. Several exhibitors featured indigenous musical instruments made from plant material such as gourds, and the Austin Herb Society had tea-making demonstrations along with tea sampling.

The festival was sponsored by four organizations: the City of Austin, Austin Parks Foundation, People Organized in Defense of Earth and her Resources (PODER), and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

< >–Lan Truong