None of the competitors in the "Dress Like a Hippie" contest Thursday at Linn-Benton Community College were quite old enough to have earned the title back in the day.

But many said they identify with the philosophies of the counterculture generation, which is what prompted them to join the competition, held as part of the college's Earth Day celebration.

"The earth is extremely important, and we need to save it, one bug at a time, especially spiders. Quit your pesticides!" urged Sinaiah Melendez, 23, of Corvallis, whose studies at LBCC have included entomology.

Added Dreagn Bennett, 20, of Salem: "I want to make a shoutout to Mother Earth. I love you!"

Thursday's hippie contest was for fun, but the tie-dye and love beads also were meant to illustrate a more serious message, said Andrew Feldman, dean of the college's Science, Engineering and Mathematics division and one of the members of the Earth Day committee.

The first Earth Day observance was April 22, 1970, adding weight to what was still the early days of the modern environmental movement. The hippie dress contest, Feldman said, was a way to hearken back to the message of the counterculture revolution and "remind people where this started."

Hippies may have cut their hair and put on suits — "I feel really weird coming to work with hole-y jeans on," Feldman admitted — but the messages they tried to share in the late 1960s and early '70s are still critical today, he said.

Among those messages: Ask questions. Be skeptical. Do your own research. Look for peaceful solutions. Be good stewards of the earth.

Booths set up in the community college's main courtyard were meant to reinforce the message of Earth Day, Feldman said: "What are you going to do to reduce your carbon footprint? How can we help?"

Students browsing the courtyard were invited to purchase garden starts, recycle their tennis shoes, check out an electric vehicle and learn about local cleanup projects.

Winners of the costume contest received flowers and plants from LBCC's own greenhouse and organic farm as prizes.

Sunny Green — and yes, that's her real name — received third place in the costume contest. She bought a pair of leopard-print platform pumps and built the rest of her outfit from there: a brown-and-orange flower-print dress from Goodwill accessorized with a handbag with faux leather fringe.

Green, president of the LBCC horticulture club, said she believes hippies helped build social awareness for important causes, including the environment. "It's their whole culture," she said, "what they originally began with: to promote peace and love."

Second-place recipient Joshua Carper, who took "No-Nukes Norman" as his nom de hippie, borrowed a shirt from someone who'd got it in Samoa and picked up a wig, bandanna and glasses from The Costume Loft for his costume.

"And listened to a lot of '60s music to get the groove," the 43-year-old Albany resident added.

"Can I put this on you?" a contest volunteer asked, taping an entry number to Carper's shirt.

"Sure. It's all love, baby," he replied. "If the spirit wills, it'll stay."

Vickie Keith, administrative assistant in the Student Affairs division, took top honors in Thursday's contest with her flowing white dress and shawl and a flowered scarf tied around her forehead.

"I found it all in the closet," she said, laughing. "Does that age me or what?"

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Education Reporter

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