Arts & Entertainment

Vernon Township Celebrates Earthfest

A colorful vegetable display at the table about the Vernon Community Garden. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Michael Furrey of Agra Environmental & Laboratory Services holds up the t-shirt listing sponsors. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
A costumed carrot walks through the crowd. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Some of the vendors at the event. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Attendees mingle with the vendors. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Barbara Green and Linda Bruno of the Dogs of Vernon. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Nancy Swiss, Rosa Rodriguez, and Tracy Santagelo, at Sussex Bank's table. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
The mine running through Heaven Hill Farms. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Lenape Lifeways demonstrates how to use an American Indian tool to a spectator. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Richard Reiter leads the African Drum Circle. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Honey bees surround their queen. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
A massive inflatable slide children enjoyed throughout the day. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Oliver the goose entertains visitors. The Vernon Township avian has been written about in children's books. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller

VERNON TOWNSHIP, NJ - The scenic rolling hills of Heaven Hill Farms was the setting for Vernon's Earthfest on Sunday, April 28, which drew a significant crowd throughout the day.

"We try to make it a family event," said Margaret Kranz, as she was busy overseeing the festivities.
Kranz is an employee of Valley National Bank, and volunteers her time with the Vernon Chamber Charities.
"All the activities are free," she added.

One of the reasons the event is held, in addition to educating the public about environmental stewardship, and as an event for the public to enjoy, she said, is to raise scholarship monies for Vernon Township students. A high school senior, who may be at Vernon Township High School, or Sussex County Technical School, Pope John Regional High School, or Wallkill Valley Regional High School, is eligible for the scholarship.
Kranz said an average of 3,000 people attend Vernon Earthfest each year.  
Attending vendors and exhibitors that were there represented industries and groups focusing on environmentally-friendly industries, as well as offering the public ways, and education, to become more sustainable. Some of the groups, and businesses with tables included: Agra Environmental & Laboratory Services, Sussex Bank, Valley National Bank, the Sussex County Chamber of Commerce, the Sierra Club, the Vernon Township Women's Club, the Dogs of Vernon (dog park), the Vernon Coalition, Mountain Creek, Blissful Bites Cupcakes, and more.
Event sponsors were: Dairy Queens of New Jersey, Heaven Hill Farm, Sussex Rural Electric Cooperative, United Water New Jersey, Vernon Township, Vernon Township Clean Communities, Aspen Companies, Highlands State Bank, Newton Medical Center, Valley National Bank, Vernon Chamber of Commerce, Vernon PAL, Vernon Chamber Charities, and Internet Directory.
Melissa Wiedbrauk, the Vernon Township Director of Recreation and Community Affairs, was also at the event, to share information about the township's community garden, which is to the left of the new dog park, along Route 517.
"We started planning this last year, and now it's finally coming to fruition," Wiedbrauk said.
There are plots still available in the gardens which are 12 by 14 feet each. For more information, Wiedbrauk said interested residents should call ((973) 764-4055, ext. 2261), email (, or stop in to the municipal building.
Presenters at Vernon Earthfest included: The Delaware Raptor Center, Lenape Lifeways, Richard Reiter (African Drumming - Drum Circle), Snakes-N-Scales, Eyes of the Wild, and Rizzo's Reptiles.
Children spent the afternoon playing in the sun, whether it was bouncing down an immense inflatable slide, getting their faces painted, going on a hayride, or searching for gems, using a screen to sift and find them in Heaven Hills Farms' mines.
One of the highlights was the beehive display, where visitors could watch a swarm of honey bees, tending to their queen, while working to produce delectable honey.
Beekeeper JC Cowell of Bees, Birds & Bears Apiary, was there to provide educational information about the bees to attendees. He explained that the lifespan of honey bees is approximately six weeks, with the queen living about two to three years. There is an evident division of labor with the bees, with some taking care of cleaning the hive, and some tending to the queen, who lays an average of 1,500 eggs daily.   
In 2011, Vernon Earthfest was the recipient of the Excellence in Special Programming Award, given by the New Jersey Parks and Recreation Association.

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