Wild Earth Fest takes over the Watchung Reservation

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UNION COUNTY, NJ — Recycling coordinators for Union County put the “wild” into “Wild Earth Fest,” its Earth Day celebration, at Watchung Reservation in Mountainside on Sunday, April 30.

Residents gathered to meet Curby, the Recycling Robot, as well as play bean bag toss and learn how and what to recycle.

Gerda Szardeaings of Union approved. “I like that the event is both fun and educational.”

“We want residents to recycle and do it right,” Union County Recycling Coordinator Joann Gemenden told LocalSource.

On hand was Cyril the Sorcerer, who combined storytelling and stage magic to explain the importance of recycling and the power ordinary people have to help the planet.

At Rizzo’s Wildlife World, residents learned about various species of reptiles including some native snakes. Wolf Vision brought a live wolf to the event to teach residents about wolves. Vinnie Reo dispelled myths about the “big, bad wolf,” and discussed why wolves are essential to a balanced ecosystem.

Glen “Wreckin’ Ball” Waldeck and his band Full Deck played live music at the event, which also hosted vendor tables from Toadshade Wildflower Farm Native Plants and Seeds and Wildlife Services, and UC VOTEC School’s Grow Your Own Greens.

There was a Recycling Olympics and displays by vendors such as Clean Ocean Action and Bureau of Recycling and Planning, along with eco arts and crafts, and face painting for kids.

Watchung Reservation hosts a variety of events throughout the year, including the Touch a Truck, which was popular with many of the residents who attended.
“We came for the Touch a Truck event and stayed for Wild Earth Fest,” Nicholas Bruton of Linden told LocalSource in an interview. “The kids are having a lot of fun. They did a lot of crafts and made birds and sand art. We’re excited to see the reptile show.”

Winners from this year’s Wildlife Photography Contest also were announced at the event. First place winners were Mike Augustyniak, of Bayonne, for “Osprey With Catch”; Jared Acinapura, of North Plainfield, for “Canada Goose Family”; and Timothy O’Brien, of Westfield, for “Red Tailed Hawk.”

Second place winners were Joseph Acinapura, of North Plainfield, for “Eastern Red Backed Salamander”; Natalie Gregorio, of Elizabeth, for “Snowy Egret”; and Alina Zahara, of Edison, for “Wild Turkey.”

Third place winners were Isaiah Anderson, of Westfield, for “White Tailed Deer” and Thomas Shealey, of Winfield Park, for “Wood Duck.” Honorable mentions went to Tony Gregorio, of Elizabeth, for “Great Blue Heron”; Frank Chudzik, of Union, for “Eastern Garter Snake”; Mary Ann Hnidj, of Hillsborough, for “Pine Warbler”; and Kerstin Batke, of Mountainside, for “Nurse Shark.”

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