The 5th annual arts and crafts fair is being held today from 12 noon to 8 pm at Elwood Park in Newark, New Jersey. This festivity includes arts and crafts on sale, which are handmade by artisans that celebrate culture. There is also lively Latin music at the event and vendors selling fresh food. Individuals from various organizations are also at this event informing people about a variety of issues that are significant for the community. La Casa de Don Pedro, an organization that assists the community, has members informing Newarkers about important topics such as traffic safety and safe practices for pedestrians and for people who ride bicycles.
Alle Ries, who is the director of the Community and Economic Development Division at La Casa de Don Pedro, explains her responsibilities in this organization. “My division is responsible for community organizing, neighborhood planning, affordable housing and the revitalization of the lower Broadway neighborhood,” Ries said. “We also give individuals classes on how to become a homeowner and provide foreclosure assistance.”
“This is my third year providing assistance to make the arts and crafts fair a reality; we help get the permits for the vendors at the event,” Ries said. “This year our role in the fair is to promote the program, “Camino Seguro,” which provides safety information about bike safety and pedestrian safety. Our goal is to educate the community and reduce the number of traffic accidents.”
Ries explained that she receives funding from the Division of Highway Traffic Safety for the program, “Camino Seguro.” Ries said that La Casa de Don Pedro will raffle the following items to promote traffic safety: helmets for kids, car seats and bikes.
Not only does the fair address pertinent issues for the community, but it also celebrates the culture of Puerto Rico. There is a picturesque house at the event that is called, “La Casa del Jibaro,” which in the English translation is the house of the hillbilly. Martha Rodriguez, who actively participates in the fair, explained the house is a tradition of Puerto Rico and symbolizes the beautiful island.
“Long ago, people from the countryside lived in these homes when they had no electricity, bathrooms or running water,” Rodriguez said.
Ana Padilla, another active participant in the event, explained that the mask at the top of the house is called, “Bejigante” and was used to scare off the witches. According to Padilla, there is a folkloric dance in which people wear those masks.
Carlos Maldonado Pastrama, who is the President of the Association of Barranquitenos, believes that the fair is important for all individuals. “The main reason for the event is to provide space for people to run into culture. We also work with community groups that provide services to the community at large,” Pastrama said. “Our goal is for individuals to meet at a higher cultural level.”
All those individuals who are interested in more information about this fair as well as other cultural events can log on to the following website: lacasanwk.org