Earth Day at New Paltz church a cross between community picnic and environmental gathering

Vladimir John O’Riley has the whole world in his hands at the New Paltz Reformed Church’s Earth Day Fair last year. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

The annual Earth Day Fair at the Reformed Church of New Paltz has been a community staple for years, a cross between an old-fashioned church picnic and a 21st century gathering of community advocates for the environment. This year’s Earth Day Fair will be held on Saturday, April 22 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the grounds of the Reformed Church at 92 Huguenot St. Admission is free.

A number of local individuals and groups will be on hand to share ideas about sustainable ways of living. Children’s activities will be scheduled throughout the day along with live music and plenty of healthy food available for purchase. This year, in addition to the interactive, fun events of the day and its educational aspects, leaders from several faith communities will gather on the church steps in the afternoon to offer an interfaith celebration, with each leader sharing a prayer or blessing from their faith community on the importance of caring for creation.

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For most of its 16-year history, the Earth Day Fair at the Reformed Church was organized by their Caring For Creation committee in cooperation with the New Paltz Climate Action Coalition. But last year, after the Interfaith Earth Action Coalition formed just a few months before Earth Day, they got involved, too, and this year marks their second time joining the other groups to put the fair together. “All the better to have the energy of so many houses of worship!” says organizer Karen Kramer-Ley.

The Interfaith Earth Action Coalition is a group of individuals from diverse faith backgrounds who express their spirituality and core beliefs about environmental issues through taking grassroots action, championing stewardship of the planet.

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.

The line-up of entertainment at Saturday’s event includes Spirit of Thunderheart, a local Native American, all-female group of drummers and singers; Wind and Stone, folk musicians affiliated with New Paltz Reformed Church; Tobias Anderson, minister at Redeemer Lutheran Church in New Paltz and folk/gospel singer and musician; The Rosendale Improvement Association Brass Band, who (as their name suggests) believe that making music together is another way of making a good life for everyone in Rosendale; The Chai Notes choir of the Jewish Congregation of New Paltz; and Betty and the Baby Boomers, longtime local folk group that has been making music together for more than 30 years. Music will begin at 10:45 a.m. on the church porch and continue throughout the day.

Children’s activities include an obstacle course, digging for buried treasure in a sand box and participating in creating a mural entitled “We’ve Got the Whole World in our Hands.” Amy Westberg, who is coordinating the children’s activities, is making several homemade “solar ovens” to bring to the fair that children can actually bake a snack in (slowly!) while going about the rest of the activities. In addition, honoring the theme of Earth Day, children will be invited to become activists for the day, writing postcards to senators and representatives asking them to take action on climate change.

Throughout the day, attendees at the Earth Day Fair can chat with the many participating local businesses and nonprofits who offer useful services or information about a variety of eco-conscious practices. The list includes Autumn Whimsy (Hudson Valley jam and jelly), Community Compost Company, 511NYRideshare, Grass & Grit Farm of New Paltz, Green Mountain Energy Co., Hudson Valley for No GMOs, Ida’s Natural Toys, Inquiring Mind Bookstore, Lighthouse Solar, LuLaRoe (clothing), Minnewaska Distance Swimmers Association, New Paltz Climate Action Coalition, New Paltz Karate Academy, Inc., New Paltz Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, Nyquist Foundation, Phillies Bridge Farm Project, Reformed Church of New Paltz’s Rev. Dr. Mark Mast, Pastor, Rita Toohey (tutoring services), Riverkeeper, RUPCO: Rural Ulster Preservation Company, Schaghticoke First Nations (Sachem Hawk Storm, hereditary chief), Spirit of Thunderheart (Donna Coane, lead drummer and singer), Sow Good Bakery, SunPower by NYS Solar Farm, Inc., Town of New Paltz ReUse & Recycling Center, UlsterCorps (volunteer organization), Ulster County Beekeepers Association, Wallkill Valley Land Trust, Wallkill Valley Rail Trail and Winds of Change (green burial awareness).

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