Fair Harbor: A Treasured Community

Hannah Lancman ~ One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.Keep this phrase in mind when walking through Fair Harbor. Although you may see piles of trash next to the garbage shed rather than inside the garbage shed, don’t be scared off!What might look like a pack of raccoons attacking every garbage shed in Fair Harbor is actually something that truly brings our community together. More so than the Labor Day Parade and the Pine Walk Fair, our culture of leaving-your-crap-at-the-end-of-the-ramp personifies Fair Harbor to the fullest extent.When a true Fair Harborite is presented with an object that they want to get rid of (a lamp for example), they begin by weighing all the options. The lamp may be from 1975 and yellowed with age but hey, it still works … kind of. On deciding whether or not to throw it out, they would say, “Let’s just put it at the end of the ramp, someone will eventually take it.”And sure enough, later that day someone riding by the house will lean over their bike and look inquisitively at a soggy cardboard sign displaying the word FREE! The biker will begin their treasure hunt, digging through old clothes and rusted tools until they uncover a buried lamp with a ripped shade and cracking porcelain. You may see this as trash, but this biker knows that now they don’t need to schlep a new, overpriced lamp out from the mainland! They will fit their fortune into their bike basket and head on their way. You may perceive this as an inexplicably bizarre image, that one man’s trash literally is another man’s treasure.This will remain extraordinary until you experience the bi-annual holiday: Garbage Day. You may think to yourself, “What could possibly compare to the treasure troves of end-of-the-ramp-crap that I’ve seen already?” But the daily finds of Fair Harbor garbage sheds absolutely pale in comparison to the prize jewels of Garbage Day. If you think Fair Harborites are happy when they see a pretty sunset, then you haven’t seen the sheer delight they feel on Garbage Day.Who would ever enjoy a day of garbage? Who would smile at the sight of a grotesque metal boat stinking up the bay at 9 a.m. on a Saturday morning? Yet year after year, loyal Fair Harborites can be found lugging wagon loads of riches to the dock, smiles painting the crowd in rain or shine. These two celebrated days, one in May and one in October, are the only two days a year when the garbage boat will accept any and all trash. Down by the dock the scene is comparable to a flea market of treasures – from rusted bikes to rotten refrigerators.Fair Harborites trek slowly through the center of the dock towards the garbage boat until they might hear a shout, “AhreYaReallyGettinRidaThat?!?” While Garbage Day is supposed to be a day of cleaning, it turns into a day of trading treasures. One man’s rusted bike becomes another man’s rusted bike that is less rusted than the one he just threw out.But the real treasure that all Fire Islanders have found is Fire Island itself.