When Earth Day was first established back in 1970, it was about educating people to the realities of environmental issues. Aimed at creating an environmental movement, its date in April was even chosen to maximize the number of college students that could be enlisted in the cause. But while our level of knowledge about taking care of the planet has certainly broadened in the years since, there are always new advancements in green living to learn about. And setting aside a day each year to celebrate Earth Day is a good reminder to focus on thinking sustainably all year round.
The 14th annual Earth Day Fair on Saturday, April 16 at the Reformed Church of New Paltz will expand in scope a bit this year as, for the first time, the event will be organized not only by its usual sponsor — the Reformed Church’s Caring For Creation committee and the New Paltz Climate Action Coalition — but by the recently formed Interfaith Earth Action coalition, a group of individuals from diverse faith backgrounds who express their spirituality and core beliefs about environmental issues through grassroots action.
The group’s members represent houses of worship that include the Reformed Church of New Paltz, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church, Jewish Congregation of New Paltz, St. Augustine Catholic Church, New Paltz Friends Meeting, New Paltz United Methodist Church, Kol Hai Hudson Valley Jewish Renewal, Budding Flower (Buddhist) Sangha, Bahai’s of Hudson Valley, Schaghticoke First Nations, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Catskills and Wallkill Reformed Church.
The aim of both the interfaith group and the Earth Day Fair is to be inclusive, crossing the boundaries of religious faith and the secular world to work together on caring for the environment. And in planning for the upcoming event, the experience of the groups working together has been a positive one, says Jim O’Dowd, founder of the Earth Day Fair and a part of both the Caring For Creation group and the interfaith coalition. “It’s been good practice for the future and the continuing efforts of the Interfaith Earth Action group.”
Spirit of a church picnic, but meant for all
The Earth Day Fair will be held as usual at the Reformed Church at 92 Huguenot Street in New Paltz, but with expanded hours this year, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. And the fair is moving from its usual Sunday to a Saturday, so that more houses of worship can participate.
What won’t change is the program of music and entertainment, healthy refreshments, activities for children and many local vendors from environmental groups with information about sustainable living. Admission is free.
The line-up of entertainment includes the Native American drummers of Spirit of Thunder Heart opening the day at 10 a.m. followed by The Tree Huggers, Sherry Kitay, St. Joseph’s Church Contemporary Music Group, the Jewish Congregation of New Paltz’s Chai Notes, The Erioles and Gideon’s Army. The Spirit of Thunder Heart will return at 12:50 p.m. with a faith leader sharing time afterward, then Bahai dance by Anna Mayta, Rich Hines and the Hillbilly Drifters and Tulula! closing out the day from 3:30-4 p.m.
Throughout the day, attendees can chat with the many participating local businesses and nonprofits, who will offer information about a variety of eco-conscious practices. The list includes Autumn Whimsy, Hudson Valley Jam and Jelly, Bruderhof Woodcrest Community, Community Compost Company, Dressel Farms, 511 NY Rideshare, Four Legs Farm, Global Dwelling, Grass & Grit Farm, Green Mountain Energy Company, Historic Huguenot Street, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Hudson Valley Vertical Farmers, Mid-Hudson Astronomical Association, Mohonk Preserve, New Baby New Paltz, New Paltz Climate Action Coalition, New Paltz Gardens for Nutrition, NYS Office of Parks, Recreation & Historical Preservation, Minnewaska State Park Preserve, Nuts for the Rainforest, Nyquist Foundation, Phillies Bridge Farm Project Inc., Philanthropic Education Organization (PEO), Repair Café of New Paltz, Riverkeeper, The Rosendale Theatre Collective, Rural Ulster Preservation Company (RUPCO), SOLARgeneration, inc., Solarize Hudson Valley Program, Catskill Mountainkeeper, SunPower by NYS Solar Farm, Three Sisters Herbal, Town of New Paltz ReUse & Recycling Center, Ulster Corps volunteer program, Ulster County Beekeepers Association, Village of New Paltz Environmental Protection Committee, Viridian Energy, Wallkill Valley Land Trust, Walkill Valley Rail Trail, Widmark Farms and Winter Sun Farm.