Rich Csenge is an extraordinary man. Webster’s defines this adjective as “being beyond what is usual, regular or established,” which describes Csenge quite well.

Csenge, a New York native, met his wife, Debra, who grew up in the state of Washington, while both were attending college at UC-Santa Barbara nearly 40 years ago. “We were destined to meet someplace,” said Csenge. They were married in 1973 and lived for 35 years in Maine, where Csenge established a well-respected custom woodworking enterprise specializing in restoring antique furniture and building unique furniture by hand.

Although he still serves customers in Maine during the summer, his “Joy in Wood’ shop is located in Kanab. Debra is an accomplished landscape artist with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Southern Maine and now works as an assistant librarian at the Kanab City Library.

Starting in 1992, the couple began making vacation pilgrimages to the southwest, with each trip conjuring up more places they wanted to see. During these adventurous and trips, they noted Kanab seemed to be the hub for their sightseeing activities year after year. In 2005, the Csenges decided to leave their beloved Maine, and there was no doubt where they were heading – Kanab, Utah.

So what makes Csenge so extraordinary? After all, anyone who relocated to Kanab has a story about how they ended up here. He took it upon himself to create the ‘Amazing Earthfest,’ starting in May of 2007. It’s now about to celebrate it’s fourth annual week of events, from May 16 through May 22.

Csenge explained, “The grandeur of the Colorado Plateau captivated me and it’s scenic beauty both inspired and motivated me. I realized all this natural beauty surrounding Kanab can strengthen and enliven us and should be respected and celebrated. I was fortunate enough to enlist a small group of volunteers at the onset and was greatly helped by “Cowboy” Ted Hallisey, who was the Director of Tourism in 2007.”

“Those volunteers made it happen and I continue to rely on volunteer support. I believe there are people in the community, with knowledge and experience I lack, that could help in areas like fundraising, advertising and marketing, accounting, web site design or public relations, if they could find a little time to do so. I would very much like to hear from any area resident that would like to volunteer in any capacity. Helping to accomplish a successful community project is very rewarding. I can be reached through the Kane County Travel Council (644-5033) or via the web at jiw@gwi.net.”

Forty events are booked for the Amazing Earthfest week, and the schedule can be seen on Page 2 or at www.amazingearthfest.com and choose the Events Schedule. A variety of programs, both indoors and at various on-site locations around Kanab, will be available to participants with the focus on understanding and appreciating the environment that sustains us physically and emotionally.

Events include award-winning documentary films at the Crescent Moon Theater; programs on botany, geology, astronomy, archeology, bird and animal biology, paleontology, ethnography and local history; workshops on watercolor painting, photography, pottery and trail building - at the dedication of Kanab’s newest trail from Tom’s Canyon to Pugh Canyon along the base of the Vermilion Cliffs. Live musical entertainment and the season opening art show at the Juniper Art Gallery will be ongoing.

“I’m very excited about two events that were just confirmed,” reports Csenge. “On the opening day, May 16, we will have a special program at the Angels Landing Amphitheater at Best Friend’s north of Kanab starting at 2:30 p.m. Internationally famed dancer Maida Rust Withers, and guest dancers from the Salt Lake Repertory Dance Theater, will return to Kanab to perform with Utah poet Alex Caldiero and a musical ensemble. The dancers will combine a meditative experience with artistic movement and evocative music, exploring the human connection with the earth.”

The program begins with an invocation from Reverend David Bowles, Pastor of the United Church of Kanab-Fredonia. The dance will be followed by a discussion of environmental issues facing the Colorado Plateau by University of Utah professors Kent Udell, Andrew Jorgenson and John Horel.

Csenge announced a second special event scheduled at the Crescent Moon Theater at 6:30 p.m. on May 19. “The pioneer of photo choreography, literally ‘the dance of light’, James Westwater, will be coordinating his stunning photographs of Ancestral Pueblo (Anasazi) sites with a masterpiece of modern classical music by Samuel Barber titled ‘Adagio for Strings,’ performed by members of the Symphony of the Canyons Orchestra and guest musicians from SLC. It is called ‘Reflections of the Spirit’ and promises to be spectacular,” Csenge exclaimed.

Recognizing the positive economic impact businesses and individuals alike gain from Kanab’s proximity to National Parks and Monuments, Utah State Parks, National Forests and BLM public lands and the 50% increase each year in public attendance of the Amazing Earthfest, Csenge has sought contributions and sponsorships from local governments, federal land agencies, businesses and individuals in the area with mixed results. “It’s been a challenge, both fiscally and physically, to put Amazing Earthfest together each year,” he relates, “and I’m so grateful to the contributors and volunteers for making it happen.” Anyone wishing to contribute a donation to sustain this endeavor may contact Csenge personally at (435) 644-3735.

Rich Csenge, a man seeking to enhance community understanding about the land we live in so we can better appreciate it and seek consensus in ways to best utilize it’s resources, while preserving it’s essence for future generations to enjoy. Now that’s extraordinary!