One of the artist’s porcelain plates

An early-morning party is planned in central Iowa on Friday as a fundraiser for sustainable farming and to welcome the sun on what some fear will be the last day of the world.

Artist and environmentalist JoAn van Balen of Des Moines is hosting the pre-dawn event, the Maya Solstice Celebration, where she’ll sell special plates she made to mark the celebration.

“They’re images of the Mayan glyphs for the days and the months,” van Balen says. “There are 20 of them that are for the day glyphs and 20 of them for the month glyphs. They’re made of porcelain and they’re all free-form.”

Some interpret the ancient Mayan calendar that was created more than 5,000 years ago as a harbinger of planetary doom, but van Balen says that’s hogwash. Still, she says we do need to make changes in our society to bring about a more prosperous future — like supporting organic agriculture.

“It’s not the end of the world, it’s just the end of our failing society right now,” van Balen says. “We’re going to have to do things a lot differently if we’re going to have a better world for our next generation.”

She says they’ll be ringing bells to greet the sunrise at 7:58 AM on Friday, dawn on what van Balen says will -not- be our last day on earth. The party will promote an “entertaining awareness” of protecting the health of the planet for the good of future generations along with “out-of-this-world music, food and camaraderie.”

Sales of the handmade plates are the main driver of the fundraiser.

“They’re $100 for a plate and that’s a ticket to come into the party,” she says. “If you bring guests, they’re $25.” Proceeds benefit The Spain Farm initiatives in restoring soil quality and sustainability, as well as two groups: Practical Farmers of Iowa and the Women, Food & Agriculture Network.

The party starts at 5:30 AM Friday at the Windsor Heights Community Center. For details, visit: