Green in abundance

Annual summer festival brings out the crowds

Secaucus Xchange was a zoo last weekend. Literally.
The crowds came out in force on Saturday, May 3 for the town of Secaucus’ fourth annual Green Summer Festival. Kids were delighted by a petting zoo, in addition to dozens of tents representing ecologically friendly participants like Zalenka Animals, East Coast Falconry Services, Save the Chimps, and the Secaucus Animal Shelter, which offered pets for adoption.
There was plenty for parents as well, with local and regional representatives from various green organizations providing information and products.

Animal planet

“We’re just here to make sure that we get educated into what’s going on with the different ecosystems,” said Regina Bator, who works for the town. Bator attended with Pebbles and Molly, two of her four Shih Tzu dogs.
“I just got educated by my little cousin about bee stings,” she said, referring to an exhibit from the New Jersey Beekeepers Association. She then added as an aside, “You’ve got to try the honey.”
The honey came from Hudson River Honey in North Bergen, run by Antonio and Somruthai Quinlan. Somruthai, known as “Jib,” was dressed as a black and yellow honeybee, handing out samples of raw honey from their local hives.
She also offered a detailed explanation of the process for extracting and processing honey. Hudson River Honey suffered the loss of several hives during Hurricane Sandy. Nowadays, among other things, they help people set up personal beehives.
Eric Swanson of East Coast Falconry Services brought along a friend who was a major attraction. Ozzy is a European Eagle Owl used in controlling the bird population of selected areas.

“The mayor here is amazing and they have family events every weekend.” — Laurie Rivlin Caspert
“I’ve been an animal trainer all my life,” said Swanson. “I’m a falconer. I do bird abatement. We remove birds using falcons, hawks, owls, eagles. It’s a way that you can move endangered species, threatened species without killing them. It’s a green way of doing stuff.”
Ozzy, now about a year old, was named by Swanson’s wife. “Baby owlets are freaky looking,” said Swanson. “They look like muppets. Really weird muppets.”
Kids and families were fascinated by the statuesque bird, barraging Swanson with questions.
Nearby stood a butterfly tent where people fed and played with Monarch Butterflies and learned facts about them. Another stand gave out free seedlings and taught how to plant them.

You gotta have art

Laurie Rivlin Caspert runs You Gotta Have Art, a mobile art project for kids inside a white school bus. “This is my traveling studio,” she said. The walls are covered inside and out with colorful drawings in magic marker.
“I’m teaching kids about recycling and making cool things out of recyclables,” said Caspert. “They don’t need expensive art supplies. You can find things around your house. That’s the whole premise. Today we’re making vases of flowers with toilet paper rolls. And hopefully they’ll never look at a toilet paper roll the same.”
“We have gone to so many towns,” she added. “They’re nothing like Secaucus. The mayor here is amazing and they have family events every weekend.”
Local resident Mana Arefayne, attending with her 6-year-old daughter Lydia, agreed. “You can’t ask for more. It’s a beautiful town. So much to do for the kids. I post pictures and my sister said, ‘Where do you live? It seems like you have something to do every week.’ ”
Ramesh and Amrutha Laxmisan live nearby the festival and brought their young daughter Uma for the first time. “She was very young last year so I didn’t bring her out,” said Amrutha. “A lot of our friends loved it last year.”
“We’re looking at the food carts, taking a loop around,” said Ramesh, admitting that, “we’re going to end up where all the kids stuff is.”
Other participants at the event included the Hackensack River Keeper, the Meadowlands Commission, the Coast Guard Auxiliary, and Coca-Cola, which offered residents free recycled syrup drums refashioned into rain collection barrels for watering gardens, as part of their global sustainability campaign.

Art Schwartz may be reached at

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