As Mr. Trash Wheel turned nine years old this Earth Day weekend, the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore marked the occasion with an induction ceremony for the newest members of Mr. Trash Wheel’s secret society, the Order of the Wheel.
The atmosphere was festive, and though the weather was chilly and windy, celebrants were cheerful and eager to pledge their fealty to their beloved Trash Wheel family.
Adam Lindquist, vice president of the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore’s Healthy Harbor Initiative, led the ceremony Saturday and pointed out that membership into the Order required would-be inductees to organize a clean-up of their neighborhoods.
“The earth is a much cleaner place today because of you,” Lindquist said, noting that there were hundreds of participants and representation from all 50 states.
Since Mr. Trash Wheel became Baltimore’s first trash-collecting water wheel in 2014, three others — Professor Trash Wheel, Captain Trash Wheel, and Gwynnda the Good Wheel of the West — have joined the effort of cleaning the city’s waterways. Together, they have collected 2,362.23 tons of trash, according to Mr. Trash Wheel’s website.
Attending Mr. Trash Wheel’s birthday bash were Heather G. and her husband. They each sported headbands with miniature Mr. Trash Wheels atop, bejeweled trash being fed up the conveyor belt into Mr. Trash Wheel’s mouth, complete with a snake and googly eyes. Her husband designed them, printed them out on his CNC machine at home, and they completed them that morning.
Tanner and AJ purchased their Mr. Trash Wheel apparel from Route One Apparel, as did many of the attendees it seemed. Both were being inducted into the Order of the Wheel later in the afternoon, proudly sporting their pins.
Lorenzo Mack-Johnson, another new inductee, majored in environmental sustainability and was a member of the Chesapeake Conservation Corps, which helped him get a internship with Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore. This was his introduction to Mr. Trash Wheel.
“When I learned that there was a secret code, I had to hop on that immediately,” he said. When he found out of the Orders existence, but that it had been paused, he “demanded it come back immediately.”
Though Mack-Johnson felt slightly “salty” that the Order reactivated after his internship ended, he was eager to join and learn the secret handshake.
With Mack-Johnson was Tabitha Haire, another new inductee, who became involved at his suggestion.
“I’ve always wanted to volunteer, and get into environmental stuff,” Haire said. They both sported the traditional black robes.
Katrina Davies’ homemade Mr. Trash Wheel homage necessitated a torso harness, and involved solar panels, a dumpster, waterwheels, and a mini retractable awning that shaded her head.
Inductees were sorted into one of four “houses” — Turtleroar, Rattypaw, Otterfluff and Snekerin — and called to take photos in front of a colorful mosaic.
Jonathan Jensen, a bass player with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, joined Lindquist for the official Order of the Wheel induction song. Jensen insisted it was “not a song, but a sacred ritual.” The crowd sang solemnly of their duty to protect the earth as members of the Order.
After a performance by Baltimore’s Fluid Movement, Lindquist invited one of the original designers of Mr. Trash Wheel to lead the crowd in the single-use plastics pledge, during which everyone held their hand in the shape of a wheel over their hearts.
Then came the highly anticipated moment for which Mack-Johnson and the crowd had waited: learning the secret handshake. This reporter cannot describe it. Not because it is complicated or difficult, but because she is now officially an unofficial member of the Order of the Wheel, by virtue of having attended the ceremony and therefore sworn to secrecy.
It is not too late, however, to be part of the Order. The deadline for applications has been extended to April 30, and an online ceremony is planned for those who could not attend in person.
The ceremony ended with a rousing rendition of the song “Mr. Trash Wheel: The Hero of the Harbor.” Weather would not permit the ceremonial feeding of the Trash Birthday Cake to Mr. Trash Wheel.
But that didn’t stop the other birthday festivities, including cupcakes, local beers and ice cream for sale, Mr. Trash Wheel playing cards, face painting, music provided by DJ Confetti the First, and more.
Brave and curious souls we’re invited to pet Kaya, the Burmese Python, who at 11 feet long was only about half of her eventual full length. Kaya was accompanied by Nerissa from Eco Adventures in Millersville since Kaya does not have a driver’s license or opposable thumbs.
Attendees could paint and adopt pet rocks, an activity provided by thread, an organization committed to ending social isolation. One participant painted a rock to look like Mr. Trash Wheel. Others made it a family activity, as brothers Miles and Malcolm painted their own unique designs. Malcolm’s contained the inspirational message “Be you,” and Miles’ pet rock was painted in bold Ravens purple and yellow, decorated with googly eyes.
Mr. Trash Wheel volunteers were on hand to help kids make seed balls containing purple cone flower and Black-Eyed Susan seeds for planting. Accompanying instructions included fun facts like word origins and that the flowers attract birds butterflies and other insects.