I first noticed IT at Westminster's Fallfest.
But IT also had been seen a few weeks earlier at the Maryland Wine Festival and then later at the Apple Harvest Festival in nearby Biglerville, Pa.
IT was not some Stephen King-created monster, but a man-made horror known as Styrofoam. And it was everywhere. Vendors were selling pop and other beverages in plastic foam cups, which were quickly discarded in trash cans when the drink was gone.
IT was flourishing.
And I found the situation offensive.
Plastic foam, as you may well be aware, does not biodegrade. The manufacture of plastic foam produces ozone-destroying chlorofluorocarbons, dioxin and other harmful gases.
Plastic foam, at least in this area, is just garbage -- it's not recycled, but dumped in landfills, where it will rest for centuries. A great legacy for future generations.
While many of us practice daily recycling habits in our homes and offices, we often find environmental awareness isn't the rule when we leave those areas.
Don't get me wrong. I love these fairs. Generally, they're family oriented, inexpensive and provide fair-goers with a cornucopia of the best of area foods and goodies.
Unfortunately, despite all the hoopla about the environment, dwindling landfills, pollution, etc., these festivals have done little to protect the environment they celebrate.
At the Biglerville festival, for example, Styrofoam was as plentiful as the apples harvested from the orchards dotting the surrounding hills.
To be fair, there were vendors selling pop in cans there. But there was no organized effort to recycle. Some Biglerville Boy Scouts had placed a sign at their pop and food stand to encourage customers to return cans for recycling. When I returned my cans, however, a youngster there had no idea what I was talking about. There was no bin for the cans.
I found this fair to be the biggest offender among those I visited this fall. Vendors were selling all kinds of apple specialties on plastic foam plates and bowls, and using plastic, throwaway utensils.
At the Maryland Wine Festival, of course, the wine was sampled in the popular take-home wine glasses. But for other beverages, plastic foam cups were the norm. There also was plenty of disposable plastic around. Same with Fallfest.
Doesn't it make more sense to sell cans of pop at these events? To sell pop in cans that can and should be recycled and that do not add to the waste stream?
Apparently, the people who organize Fallfest are beginning to think so.
"We've already talked about this," Carol Donovan, activities and recreation supervisor for the city of Westminster, recently informed me.
Next year, organizers plan to ask all vendors to use recyclable materials as much as possible. But, because private vendors pay to sell at the event, Donovan said it would be difficult to make any restrictions on them.
"We would appreciate it if they would use recyclable items, though," she said.
Donovan said there was an attempt to be more environmentally conscious at this year's Fallfest and that a recycling bin for cans was placed on the grounds. However, many mistakenly used the bin for garbage. The effort was in vain.
"Admittedly, it was a last-minute thought on our part," Donovan said.
"This year we plan to make it a focus."
Let's hope some of these other popular fairs do the same thing.