Christian Collins could have driven to the Presbyterian-New England Congregational Church for Sunday’s Saratoga Peace Fair.
Instead, he and six others walked 14 miles from an intersection in Burnt Hills, beating little drums with sticks and handing out peace literature along the way.
“It was a little cold,” Collins said upon his arrival at the church, “but not too bad.”
Sunday afternoon, the Presbyterian-New England Congregational Church hosted their fourth Peace Fair. Local venders sold Native American crafts, fair-trade coffee and street food while area peace organizations handed out literature to passers-by.
People strolled around. A musician strummed a guitar and sang folk songs. Collins put away his drum.
“The walk was planned back when we thought a U.S. bombing of Syria was imminent,” he said. “We figured we’d bring our Middle East track record to people’s attention.”
Leaders at the Grafton Peace Pagoda scheduled the peace walk to coincide with the culmination of Saratoga Peace Week, the Peace Fair.
The whole event has its roots with Elizabeth Meehan. Five years ago, the Congregational Church member got restless and decided to advocate for what she deemed the core of all positive change: peace.
Meehan strode between vinyl tents Sunday afternoon, bringing extension cords and other essential fair equipment to vendors and volunteers.
“We started with four organizations,” she said, “and it just grew from there.”
Over a few years the one-day fair grew into a weeklong event stretching out into the city. Last year, there were so many things going on Meehan canceled the main fair to give herself more time to schedule music and educational events across the city.
“But everyone missed the fair itself,” she said.
She pointed out a number of new booths and vendors, many of which seemingly had very little to do with peace. There was a vegan support group and a tent of Skidmore College students lobbying for public campaign financing.
“This is about a broader definition of peace,” Meehan said, laying out her own definition as a concept that includes environmentally conscious investing, organic food and inner peace, along with the more conventional anti-war kind of peace.
This year’s Peace Week events, she said, were very successful. The fair’s return drew more vendors than ever, but attendance was down.
The Peace Fair of 2011 drew 500 people, she said. This year’s brought in significantly fewer, partially due to the chilly weather and busy nature of Saratoga Springs.
“There’s always something to do in Saratoga,” said Deirdre Ladd, who helped organize Peace Week. “That’s great if you live here. Not so great if you’re organizing a festival.”
The Henry Street Harvest Festival, which ran the same day, may have siphoned off a few attendees, but the locals who did show up seemed to enjoy themselves.
A group of Skidmore freshmen drifted through, bought food and listened to some music. Monica Abdul-Chani said she liked that an African craft vendor promised to return his profits to Africa.
“I don’t actually care enough to really get involved with the issues,” said English major Will Kaplan, “but it’s fun to see what’s going on.”
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