November 27, 2022

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ACUA Earth Day Festival returns after pandemic pause | Local News

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The Atlantic County Utilities Authority hosted its 30th annual Earth Day Festival on Sunday. An estimated 8,000 people gathered at the ACUA Environmental Park off Delilah Road to celebrate efforts to take care of the environment. The festival was canceled the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Welcoming the community back to celebrate the environment for the 30th year is a wonderful feeling, especially after canceling the past two years,” ACUA President Rick Dovey said in a release Wednesday.

On Suday, th park was lined with vendors, exhibits and other entertainment events, as well as information booths about taking care of the environment. People flocked to stands selling plants, jewelry, food and much more as children were captured by bounce castles, pony rides, hay mazes, face painting and an interactive fantasy show.

Enjoying a warm spring day, people were happy to be back celebrating nature.

“I come out because I enjoy seeing what people have to offer, different information, and saving the Earth, meeting old friends, meeting new people,” said Connie McKinnis, of Egg Harbor Township. “I was so excited when I saw the sign (announcing the festival).”

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Like the customers in attendance, vendors were happy to be able to celebrate Earth Day at a public festival.

Gugui Alessi, a former Spanish teacher who started a pottery business in her retirement, said Sunday was her first time displaying her pottery at a large showing.

Having majored in fine arts with a concentration in pottery, she said she was happy to finally have the opportunity to begin showing her work to a wide audience.

“It seemed like a good place to start,” said Alessi, who lives in the Cape May Beaches area of the Villas and is from Puerto Rico.

Liz Tran, who has been an art enthusiast since she was in preschool, was happy for a time in which she could both showcase her art and celebrate Earth Day. A regular at the farmer’s market in Linwood, she said her work was inspired by nature.

“I love seeing people and meeting people, too,” Tran said. “It’s really nice to see the community come together.”

Michele Callshim was also offering jewelry, with natural products made from materials at the Jersey Shore. She said she started the business with her late husband and was “ecstatic” to be back at the festival.

Along with arts and crafts and entertainment, there were animals with which people could connect. Gwenne Baile, of Haddon Township, Camden County, was representing her business “Camden County Chickens and Therapy Hens.” She uses chickens to help people with special needs while giving lessons to South Jersey residents about how to become a chicken handler.

Some vendors were working to advance a particular cause or mission.

Briana Bee, of Atlantic City, was at the festival representing Enlightened Farms, an Egg Harbor City organization that helps people with addiction issues by teaching them agriculture and horticulture. The organization’s director, Bee was selling an assortment of plants and raising awareness about Enlightened Farms’ mission.

Raven Ahmed was selling native, pesticide-free plants to help promote the preservation of insect species with declining populations, such as bees and the monarch butterfly.

Ethan Lin, a freshman at Egg Harbor Township High School, was volunteering as part of his local Key Club. He said that he was glad to have an opportunity to give back and teach people about the environment. He and fellow freshman Tyler Lam were teaching passersby what can and cannot be flushed down the toilet.

“From a personal standpoint … it’s definitely nice just to see things for our community to do,” Lin said.

Other stations were teaching about the history of the area.

Greg Vizzi was selling a book he helped the late Chief Quiet Thunder write about the history and culture of the Lenni-Lenape tribe. He also appeared earlier this year at the Lines in the Pines event at Stockton University, another event that had been suspended due to the pandemic. Vizzi said the Earth Day festival was an important opportunity for people to appreciate nature and learn.

Mark Thomson, a biochemist, manufactures goat milk into moisturizer. Having also appeared at Lines in the Pines, he said the return of events like the festival Sunday was an important way to introduce people into different environmental causes. He said it was especially important to raise awareness at events like this, as much of the discussion about environmentalism, like discussions about public health, have been politically polarized.

“It’s something that we all really need to be more aware of,” Thomson said.

The festival was an especially appealing event for families. Ashley Beals was there with her infant child and said she was excited to begin attending outdoor community events that celebrated the environment.

“I just love Earth Day. I think it’s a great event,” “It’s really sad that it stopped during COVID, so I’m excited that they brought it back.”

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