It all started in 2008 when Syd, an executive in new technologies, and Deb, a proponent of organic foods and healthy living, decided it was time as a family to support a cause that would benefit the community.
“Deb and I wanted something that would be good for Long Island, teach our children some life lessons, and maybe make some extra money as the recession was tightening its grip,” says Syd. “Given our interests, it seemed natural that we’d create the East End GreenFest.”
The fact that they had never put on a festival didn’t stop them. After reaching out to local green companies, they were able to pull together the 2009 East End GreenFest at Strawberry Fields Fairgrounds in Mattituck. There were over 145 exhibitors of solar energy, green transportation, organic foods, local wineries, handmade crafts and the first solar-powered stage on Long Island for local bands. “We even had hula hoopers and poi-arts dancers, face painters, henna tattoos and a contortionist. It was amazing,” says Deborah.
And the kids were exhibitors as well. They researched organic popcorn and cotton candy products, which they sold at their own booth. And with the help of their grandparents, they also sold roasted corn, water and other healthy snacks and drinks.
The event was such a success it won “Event of the Year” from the readers of Dan’s Papers. Suddenly the Duftons were in the GreenFest business with requests to put on their event here and out of state. This year the Duftons have had the Long Island GreenFest at SUNY Farmingdale, the Akron GreenFest in Ohio and the Rhode Island GreenFest in Providence. They held their second annual East End GreenFest in July and have also included mall events. In fact, they’ll be at the Walt Whitman Mall in Huntington on Oct. 8 to 11 and Roosevelt Field in Garden City Nov. 12 to 14.
“We keep the format the same for each show: music, entertainment and education about living a green lifestyle. No preaching; just teaching,” says Syd.
They’ve also been able to increase their community impact. Though there’s a small entrance fee, visitors are asked to bring food items that the Duftons donate to a food bank within the community where the event is held. This all adds up to teachable moments for the five younger Duftons.
Says Syd: “The kids have learned many lessons on teamwork, building a business, healthy eating, greening their lives, how to count money and make change fast, caring for each other and others that aren’t as fortunate and so many more lessons we probably won’t even realize until they’re older. I hope our festivals continue for a long time and they bring our family even closer together as we share our message of ‘good, green, fun’ in our GreenFest travels on Long Island and beyond.”
Adds Shelby, “We like doing this because it helps the earth so we can all live longer.”
And that seems like reason enough for the Duftons to be our family of the year.
Liza N. Burby is publisher of Long Island Parent magazine, which participated in the July East End GreenFest. She saw first-hand how hard the Duftons work and how much fun everyone has.