The Reformed Church of New Paltz on historic Huguenot Street is an old church with very modern ideas. A house of worship since 1683, it officially became a “Green Church” in 2008. That meant pledging to uphold certain standards of an environmentally friendly faith community, but the church has a history of caring about stewarding the Earth’s resources that goes back even further, says Jim O’Dowd, one of the guiding forces behind the annual Earth Day Fair held on the grounds each April since 2003.
This year’s event is slated for Sunday, April 27 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission is free. The day will begin with a 10 a.m. worship service that will be held outdoors for the first time, says O’Dowd, weather permitting. He promises a “music-filled” service welcoming to all, with an environmental theme focusing on the role water plays in our eco-system.
Afterward, rain or shine, the Earth Day Fair begins, offering live music, children’s activities and information from an abundance of local businesses and environmental organizations. Plenty of homemade refreshments will be available for purchase, with proceeds going back to the church, and the food booths will feature local farm products from New Paltz’s Dressel Farms and Winter Sun Farms along with Highland’s Mountain Fresh Farms and the 100-percent grass fed beef produced by Accord’s Moveable Beast Farm.
The fair will have “a little bit of everything,” says O’Dowd, with reps from a variety of eco-conscious organizations on hand to offer advice and insight on solar power, gardening, bicycling and a number of other sustainable practices.
Catskill Mountainkeeper and Mohonk Preserve will be represented at the fair for the first time. Phillies Bridge Farm, whose CSA is back in business, will return along with other local favorites like Hudson River Sloop Clearwater and Riverkeeper. Other participating groups include The Nature Conservancy, the Center for Bioregional Living (permaculture design), New Paltz Bike and Pedestrian Committee, New Paltz Gardens for Nutrition, the Charles Bates Solar Astronomy Project from the Mid-Hudson Astronomical Association, SUNY’s Lifetime Learning Institute, Rural Ulster Preservation Company (RUPCO), Lighthousesolar, Community Compost Company, Citizens for Local Power, Sustainable Hudson Valley, Viridian Energy and Ulster County Resource and Recovery Agency.
Live music will be provided by Betty and the Baby Boomers, Wind and Stone, The Nature Trio and Tulula!, among others. The Town of New Paltz Recycling Center will hold a raffle to win a composter, and Cindy Capraro of The Treehouse will do clothing repairs for visitors who bring their “mend-ables” along. And that old lamp or toaster headed for the landfill? Put it back in action with Jack Wackman of Repair Café.
The arts are represented by the Rosendale Theatre Collective and Tillson-raised photographer John Fischer, who’ll take a break from life on the road to show his photographs of the Hudson Valley and beyond.
Children’s activities include a Lego building event. For those in a decorative mood, The Tipsy Turtle of Highland will do henna body painting.
And while the event always retains the spirit of an old-fashioned church community gathering, says O’Dowd, it’s an event intended for everyone, not just church members. The Caring for Creation Committee (Jim and Janet O’Dowd, Adriana Havnaer, Cheryl Alloway, Judy Elliot and her daughter Katie) partner up with the non-church-affiliated New Paltz Climate Action Coalition every year to put on the Earth Day Fair.
“The thing that’s on everybody’s mind right now is climate change and the impact of human activities on causing it,” says O’Dowd. “That’s really the most serious issue we have to deal with, I think, and that’s going to fall the hardest on the young people and also on some of the poorer people. Also the effects of fracking on our water supplies and the decertification that’s happening in some areas of the world because of climate change.”
The Earth Day Fair is a lot of fun, he adds, but it’s also about taking action.
The Reformed Church of New Paltz is located at 92 Huguenot Street. For more information, call (845) 255-6340 or visit www.reformedchurchofnewpaltz.org.