The weather on Earth Day in Burlington County, N.J., is typically cold and rainy. Yet the Earth Fair in early June has always seen blue skies. The sunny weather is an ideal setting for enlightening residents about environmental issues through workshops, activities and entertainment.
Earth Fair, commonly viewed as the creation of county recycling coordinator Ann Moore, came to fruition in 1993. During its infancy, the event was held at a privately owned park located on nearly 70 acres of wooded space in Mansfield Township, N.J., and focused on the benefits of recycling. Attendees would visit the county Resource Recovery Complex located adjacent to the park to observe the facility's recycling and composting areas and greenhouse. The early Earth Fair experience provided what Joyce Goldsmith, director of the county's division of Cultural Affairs and Tourism, calls an “eye opener [on] how much trash people can generate.” Three thousand people attended the event.
Officials at the Burlington County Board of Chosen Freeholders saw the potential of Earth Fair and its educational opportunities. Then-Freeholder Bob Shinn recognized that the county needed recycling programs and education and initiated funding opportunities for the event.
This year, on Earth Fair's 13th anniversary, nearly 18,000 people attended the all-encompassing environmental event, which is now held at Smithville Park, a 280-acre historic park. On June 11, both children and adults took advantage of nearly 65 event participants, which included vendors, entertainers, environmental organizations and conservancy groups teaching about environmental awareness, water conservation and, of course, recycling. During the six-hour event, children created art from trash and participated in rock climbing, mountain biking, nature walks and canoeing. They also enjoyed insect displays, puppet shows, storytellers and musicians who helped the kids create music with discarded trash.
Moore says that Earth Fair caters to adults as well as children, enabling them to learn about their own impact on the environment. “[There is] an adult population who is very hungry for this type of information and spends a lot of time at the tables interacting with the different [environmental] groups,” she says.
To coincide with the usual Earth Fair events, this year organizers initiated Recycle-A-Rama, a free recycling drop-off station where about 350 residents could dispose of unwanted materials, including old electronic equipment, eyeglasses and hearing aids. Earth Fair organizers estimate that about 12,000 pounds of electronic equipment were collected at this year's event and that an 8-ton capacity paper shredder was packed.