The eighth annual food truck and craft beverage festival returns to Haddon Heights October 7 with a cause.
By Matt Skoufalos | September 16, 2023
At 25, Anna Fielding spontaneously moved with a friend to Lahaina, a town of about 12,000 people on the Hawaiian island of Maui.
“We just decided to go to Maui, sight unseen, and completely became enamored with it,” Fielding said.
“It’s a wonderful, beautiful, magical place,” she said.
Fielding remained in Maui for four years, working as a schoolteacher, and fully immersed herself in the community. When she became a new mother, women in a local meet-up helped Fielding get through the early days of raising her baby, offering support she didn’t find in other places.
“Half of [the teachers on] my grade level used to call themselves my ‘Maui moms’ because they would take care of me,” Fielding said. “They called my son ‘grandson.’ They took him in as their own.
“They would just take care of us,” she said “Even if they don’t have a lot, people have their family and their community, and the community supports them.”
Although Fielding traded Lahaina for Haddon Heights a decade ago, she still keeps in touch with the people she knew there. So when the town was reduced to ashes in the worst wildfire to hit the United States in more than a century, her thoughts turned immediately to the people who had sheltered her in a vulnerable time.
Fielding knows families who’ve lost “their entire house, their car, every possession, everything,” including the opportunity of work. In a community where homes are passed down through generational ownership, the destruction may prove too costly for them to rebuild in place.
“Seeing pictures of the town is just devastating,” Fielding said. “People are still missing; people have lost businesses.
“They’re not going to get a lot of money from their insurance companies, and Hawaii’s so expensive to live that they’re going to have to leave,” she said. “They need help now, and they need help directly.”
When Superstorm Sandy struck the Jersey coast, Fielding remembers how the local businesses in Lahaina fundraised for storm victims some 4,900 miles away.
“The least we can do is give back,” Fielding said. “We need to be doing the same thing in New Jersey: coming together to help these people out who’ve had this disaster.”
HIP events typically benefit charitable causes locally and beyond, and so a portion of the proceeds from the October 7 event will be dedicated to direct aid for the people of Maui.
“It’s not like we ever have to look for a cause,” said HIP Director Joe Gentile. “Unfortunately, something always finds us.
“[In Maui], you’ve got people who lost their lives, their businesses, their homes,” he said. “It’s devastating what happened to them.”
Events like Sippin’ on Station help showcase the best that a small community like Haddon Heights has to offer visitors, said HIP Producer Fabian Brown. Therefore, there’s no better charitable recipient than another small community based around the same culture and values.
“We continue to bring community together,” Brown said. “Yeah, it’s a party, but it’s really a great excuse for people to connect, and to make good connections. We always put the money back to some great causes,” he said.
“We couldn’t do it without the support of the breweries, the distilleries; our sponsors, our musicians, our vendors,” he continued. “These events wouldn’t happen without people bringing the vibe. This is about the relationships we’ve built with these people over years of doing this.
“It’s significant; it carries over.”
In its eighth year, Brown said HIP has found its niche driving foot traffic to local, downtown shopping districts, where visitors can experience local culture.
Its efforts, which were begun on the 500 and 600 blocks of Station Avenue in Haddon Heights in 2015, have since been replicated in nearby municipalities like Mount Ephraim, Runnemede, and Magnolia.
“Talking to business owners afterwards, the residual effects are what drives these things forward,” Brown said. “[These street festivals] are in alignment with our mission: bolstering downtown districts and driving the local economy.
“We have a vehicle to be able to do that, and it’s not just here in Haddon Heights, it’s in other towns and other communities,” he said. If you’d have asked me a decade ago did I think I would be doing stuff like this, I’d have said you’re crazy.”
HIP, Inc. Sippin’ on Station festival runs from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. October 7 on the 500 and 600 blocks of Station Avenue in Haddon Heights. The event features live music on multiple stages, food trucks, artisan and craft vendors, and drinks from local craft beer and spirits to wines from around the world.
Sippin’ on Station is free to attend, but for those who wish to drink alcohol, event glasses will be offered for sale, with $2 from every glass dedicated to Maui wildfire relief. For more information, visit the event page.
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