This is the stuff small towns are made of, Kids, puppets, tree-planting and showing awareness of the environment.

You may remember reading about seven-year-old Charlie Kazak’s tree-planting mission in Vankleek Hill last year. Now eight years old, he is launching his tree-planting campaign with a sidewalk parade on May 14, calling it a Gratitude for Earth event. The focus is his first official tree plantings for 2022, taking place at the Heritage Lodge retirement home and at the Mill Street Park beside the Vankleek Hill Community Centre.

In 2021, Charlie and his tree project won first place in The Review’s Earth Day Contest for kids. Then, Charlie and his mission were featured by Tree Canada as part of a national fundraising campaign late last year.

But back to Saturday, May 14. Children and adults are welcome to participate in the sidewalk parade, which will feature a giant papier mache puppet, being made by Charlie’s grandmother, Vankleek Hill artist Susie Fairbrother. The Review visited Fairbrother in her studio at the Vankleek Hill Creating Centre last week, where she was working on the puppet head and hands. It will take three people to animate the giant puppet as it makes its way along the parade route, which has its starting point at the Creating Centre at 13 High Street (corner of the main intersection of Vankleek Hill) at 2 p.m., then will proceed east along Main Street, turning south onto Union Street, then right onto Wall Street to visit Heritage Lodge. After a tree-planting there, the parade will move across the street to the Vankleek Hill Community Centre and Mill Street Park for Charlie’s first official tree planting of 2022. Children are invited to wear an animal costume or a costume which celebrates nature, Fairbrother says, but costumes are not mandatory, she added.

Everyone needs a hand. Or two. Vankleek Hill artist Susie Fairbrother is seen here at work on hands for a giant puppet which will be part of the ‘Gratitude for Earth Day’ Parade on May 14.
Photo: Louise Sproule

Charlie is at work these days making his own papier mache wolf and she notes that recyclable products are used to make the puppets.

In the meantime, art instructor Stephanie Pete’s students at the Art and Dream Studio, located at 27 High Street, have been making their own puppets as part of their plan to participate in the parade, with guidance from Fairbrother.

Music teacher Alice Rodger, who offers lessons at the Creating Centre, is teaching some of her students a song for the event.

On Saturday and Sunday, May 14 and 15, Rodger and Pete are hosting their annual spring plant (and seedling) sale in the Philip Arber Memorial Park, located beside the Creating Centre. Funds raised will be used to support special art and music projects for their students. The sale takes place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on both days. The spring plant sale continues May 22 and June 4.

As parade participants pass by The Review offices at 76 Main Street East, they can pick up a free packet of sunflower seeds, provided courtesy of Good Food Garden.

Looking for extra newsprint to make your own papier mache creature? Stop by The Review offices Monday through Friday, between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. and ask at the front desk for some free newspapers.

Champlain Seed Library

Did you know that the Champlain Library, located at 94 Main Street, has its own seed library, furnished with seed packets donated by the Vankleek Hill Horticultural Society? The library is offering vegetable, flower and herb seeds to its patrons. The library is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.. Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.