Union County holds 14th annual Peace Fair

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CRANFORD, NJ — On Sunday, Aug. 7, Union County hosted its 14th annual Peace Fair in Cranford from 1 to 7 p.m. This year’s theme was to promote the abolition of nuclear weapons. The Union County Peace Council works to raise awareness and promote education on various issues affecting our planet.

“The Union County Peace Council began as the Union County Peace and Social Action Committee,” Monica Shimkus of Union County Peace Council told LocalSource. “We showed documentary films in a local church. We started the fair in 2003 as we were protesting the U.S. invasion of Iraq. We picked the first Sunday of August as it’s the anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. We hosted talks by the Japanese survivors of those bombings who were children at the time. The fair has become an annual event of music, art, dance, information and inspiration.”

“This year we are raising awareness and money for American Indians in need,” Shimkus told LocalSource. “There was a recent epidemic of suicides among Lakota youth at Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Madelyn Hoffman, Director of New Jersey Peace Action, will be reporting directly following a visit to Syria. There was a presentation on creating a United States Department of Peace. We encourage people to take political action by calling and writing to our representatives in government to sign legislations that will bring about peace, such as treaties that will ultimately put an end to weapons of mass destruction. Above all, our message is that creating peace begins with each individual person behaving in a peaceful manner.”

Attendees were encouraged to sign a petition created by New Jersey Peace Action to abolish the sale of cluster bombs in our country. Hoffman also informed the audience about President Barack Obama’s one trillion dollar program to upgrade nuclear weapons. Alternative spending methods were suggested, such as free college tuition for all Americans. Another organization with a strong message is Friends of Rahway River Parkway. They are working to bring historical status to Rahway River Parkway and restore and beautify it, returning it to a state as close as possible to its original Olmsted Firm design.

“We are here today to raise awareness about the need to preserve our parks,” said Leigh Daniel, a resident of Cranford and member of Friends of Rahway River Parkway. “We want to raise money to file for historical status.”

“The parks need to be restored and acknowledged for their history,” said Sean Ryan, of Roselle Park, and former landscape architect of Union County. “We need to care for them.”

A drum performance by Earth Movers promoted peace and community. Drumming is traditionally used to create a sense of togetherness, without which peace wouldn’t be possible. With its strong tribal history, the drumming and chanting induced a meditative experience.

The Super Dove of Peace emceed the event. Wearing a feathered mask with sunglasses and a beak, the dove introduced each musician as they performed. Barry Costello and Bongo Bob performed a few songs including an original piece called, “Set This Planet Free,” which was written during the environmental movement in 1987.