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‘Enjoying the day and the weather’ at a pair of fairs

MORE: Read more news from Fredericksburg

Benjamin Friesner had a busy Saturday.

The 2½-year-old and his parents started their Saturday at the Earth Day Festival in Old Mill Park, where Benjamin met alpacas, listened to bluegrass and had lunch.

Then, the family visited the University of Mary Washington’s Multicultural Fair, where they tried ethnic food and listened to more music.

Benjamin’s mother Bethany Friesner, who works in the office of residence life at UMW, said Benjamin especially enjoyed the music at both fairs.

“He’s been right up at the stage,” she said. “We’re enjoying the day, and the weather, a lot.”

Saturday’s weather, with a high of 74 degrees, brought people out to the festivals, and to the farmers market downtown.

William Culpepper and Megan Wright, both 26, visited the market with their 14-month-old daughter Zoe Culpepper.

The family moved to Fredericksburg from Sumerduck in Fauquier County two weeks ago.

“We just really wanted to check it out,” Wright said.

“And the weather is nice today,” Culpepper added. “It went from 75 degrees to snow, to summer, it seemed like. This feels like the first spring day.”

They sampled cheeses from the Sweet Valley Farm Dairy stand and perused jams and plants at Clyde Howard’s Howard Farm table.

Howard said Saturday was the second time he set up a table at the farmers market this season and the turnout was better than the week before.

“It’s beautiful, nice outside,” he said. “I expect the weather’s bringing them out.”

At the Earth Day Festival, Stephanie Myers and her children Ashley Fodczuk, 9, and Jacob Fodczuk, 7, picked up free kites from the Rappahannock Solid Waste Management Board (R–Board) table. The group sponsored the event with the city of Fredericksburg.

Ashley’s goal for the day was to fly the kite.

“It’s green and blue,” she said. “My favorite colors.”

The kites, made of silk and bamboo, are biodegradable, said Julie May, environmental manager for the R–Board.

“We’re hoping to increase their awareness of recycling and composting through products like this,” she said of the kites.

Saturday was the 10th annual Earth Day Festival, and May said over 60 groups had tables at the park.

Angelika Winters, 17, held Parks, Recreation and Public Facilities corn snake, Pocket, for visitors to touch.

“He’s friendly,” she reassured people passing by.

Across the park, the Boy Scouts were also displaying snakes.

Tiffany Smith of Orange and her son Landon, 4, touched a black rat snake named Calvin, one of seven snakes at the stand.

“I touched him and he felt like rocks,” Landon said.

Though UMW’s Multicultural Fair lacked snakes, the 23rd annual event featured 30 music and dance acts, 60 vendors and 11 food trucks.

Paul Mulinde, 60, was one of the vendors.

He sold handmade jewelry, baskets and bags from his native Uganda.

Mulinde, who moved to the Washington area 17 years ago, said festivals like the Multicultural Fair are his favorites.

“They’re one day and the weather is nice,” he said.

Farrah Farhat, a junior at UMW who works for the James Farmer Multicultural Center, was helping vendors at the fair.

She also had her face painted with a butterfly.

“It’s nice to see the university come together with the community,” she said. “I feel like there’s a rift between them.”

Junior Jenna Randall had a similar impression of the College Heights community and the college.

“I think the main purpose is to integrate people from UMW and the community and get us in the same location,” she said.

Thomas Jacobs, 24, brought his 8-year-old nephew Christian Grzyb to the fair. Their first stop was to play laser tag.

“It’s really nice,” he said. “And I’m impressed by the turnout and the support of multiculturalism. It’s something that Fredericksburg needs.”

Martha Burtis, who works in UMW’s Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies, came to the festival with husband Erik Burtis and children Madigan, 7, and Graeme, 4.

“We both went to college here,” she said. “And we went then to the Multicultural Fair. And we’ve been since we moved back here eight years ago. It’s fun to bring our family here.”

She said when the children are older she hopes they can understand the significance of multiculturalism, but for now they are just having fun.

“And maybe they’ll try the ethnic food,” she said. “It’s just chicken fingers for lunch right now.”

Lindley Estes: 540/735-1976