Glen Ridge fair raises sustainability awareness through education and art

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GLEN RIDGE, NJ — The Glen Ridge Arts and Eco Fair returned to its familiar venue of Ridgewood Avenue alongside Glen Ridge High School on Saturday, May 21. The event was held for the first time in four years, with an added boost provided by perfect skies. Seen by its organizers as two events in one, the fair had been canceled by rain in 2019 and the pandemic the next two years. According to LoriJeane Moody, chairperson of the Glen Ridge Environmental Committee, the ecology portion of the fair has been around for about 15 years and the arts fair “a lot longer.” A press release said the arts fair has been held for 41 years; the two events combined into one celebration in 2007.

“I think there is renewed energy and enthusiasm,” Moody said at the event about its long-awaited resumption. “People are craving community and connection. Dare I say, the public health crisis has really underscored environmental health. There is a feeling that the whole system needs to be more healthy on a grounded level.”

The Eco Fair has traditionally attracted vendors of handmade and holistic products, with local community service organizations represented. Moody said the number of vendors had increased this year, with a marked involvement of community groups. The perfect weather, she said, was a real testament to the need for people to interact again, since they attended the fair instead of choosing a day at the beach or just remaining indoors. According to Moody, there were nearly 100 vendors and close to 25 community groups represented. There were vegetable plants for sale and milkweed plants, to help sustain the monarch butterfly population.

Taking a cue from the recently enacted law prohibiting retailers from providing single-use paper or plastic bags to customers, fair organizers voluntarily adhered to the ban and did not allow water to be sold in plastic bottles either. 

“The vendors have been great,” Moody said about the cooperation with the ban. “There’s been no hesitation, and there are a lot of branded tote bags.”

In the past, she said, the arts and ecology components of the fair functioned independently. But the pandemic has created a different attitude.

“We had been side-by-side previously,” Moody said as she interlocked her fingers, “but this year we’re blended.” 

The emphasis for both halves, art and environment, she said, was sustainability. 

Profits from the fair provide scholarships to GRHS seniors who have distinguished themselves with environmental pursuits or artistic achievement. Among the activities of the day was the traditional plastic duck race down Toney’s Brook to benefit the high school graduating class. There were performances by the GRHS jazz band, the Gas Lamp Players and local talent for an audience seated in beach chairs on the high school lawn, where grilled hamburgers were sold. Inside the school, student art was exhibited, and there was a car show near the intersection of Ridgewood and Bloomfield avenues. 

Stephanie Koskuba, who coordinated the vendors, said most of the vendors had an ecology or sustainability focus.

“You’ll see recycled materials being used in their products,” she said. “There’s a soap company, Montana Mountain, that makes soap and shampoo using natural ingredients. There are artists that use recycled materials.”

The vendor Trash Art Treasures, she said, incorporates hand-rolled magazines in its product.

“I looked for these vendors,” Koskuba said. “I went to shows and looked for people that would be a great fit.”

“Nothing matters more than community,” Moody interjected. “I think we put on a good event that is fun.”

In an email following the event, Moody said the 2022 Glen Ridge Arts and Eco Fair was a great success. 

“Vendors have already reported that they look forward to returning next year,” she said. “Speaking for the ecology side, our demonstrations were popular. We spread great awareness of our new recycling guide and of our upcoming community compost program. And we added just over 100 homes to our ‘Pollinator Pathway’ with our milkweed sales.”

Photos by Daniel Jackovino