Fairs and Festivals
By Elizabeth Denburg
The abundance of fairs and festivals presented across the eight counties of the Catskill Mountains, the Upper Hudson Valley and the Leatherstocking Region embody the culture and values of community, offering a rich menu of recreational, educational and cultural opportunities for residents and visitors of all ages. You can enjoy the adventure of creating your own experience and then decide what to take away with you. You can find a balance of tradition and innovation, fun and entertainment, as well as peaceful relaxation and an immersion in nature. This bountiful blend of colorful history, fine and folk arts, verdant scenery and intoxicating fresh air is precisely what makes life in the Catskill Region unique. Whether you're looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the big city or simply desire to further explore the natural beauty and resources in your own backyard, family fun and communal celebration await you in this scenic and lively New York region.
The Delaware County Fair in Walton, NY is one of the largest agricultural and livestock fairs in the state. Walton provides easy access to a wide array of recreational activities and is particularly renowned for its trout fishing along the Beaverkill, considered among the best trout streams in the Northeast. The town also provides a picturesque setting for the six days of festivities and the fairgrounds span nearly 60 acres, surrounded on the West and North by the Delaware River. The beginning of the fair tradition in 1887 along with the founding of the Delaware County Agricultural Society was a significant moment in the area's rich and well-preserved history.
If you were a fan of the hit TV show "The Dukes of Hazzard," you won't want to miss the personal appearances by Ben "Cooter" Jones and "The General Lee" at this year's 115th annual fair. The performance by "Cooter's Garage Band" is sure to be an evening of traditional Southern entertainment and good old-fashioned fun for the whole family. The fair will also feature country music star Mark Chesnutt, whose own style expands the definition of traditional country music, along with special guest Marty Raybon.
The Delaware County Fair Open Horse Show is one of the largest of its kind in the Northeast and plays an integral part in the Fair experience. Delaware County residents are also invited to participate in a series of classes called "Best Rider in Delaware County." In addition to the previously existing classes for Saddle Seat, Western and Hunt Seat, a new class for Driving will join the contest this year. The demolition derbies, tractor driving contest, men and women tug of war contest and the livestock auction are just a few more of the activities that make the Delaware County Fair a week of endless excitement and entertainment.
The long and prosperous history of the Ulster County Fair began with the construction of the Ellenville Driving Park in 1869, where a small yet successful fair took place featuring horse racing and agricultural exhibits. The event has grown tremendously since then. By 1900, it was considered to be one of the finest county fairs in New York State. The fair now presents competitive exhibits with more than 4,000 entries in a wide range of categories, including vegetables, livestock, needlework, photography and much more. The Robinson Racing Pigs is one of the highlights of the event and remains the number one fair attraction in North America.
There's more country music in store at the 161st Columbia County Fair, one of America's oldest consecutively run annual fairs. The legendary, Grammy Award-winning Charlie Daniel's Band will perform at the event, which will be held in Chatham, NY this Labor Day weekend. The fair will also feature one of the region's most popular rock bands, The Refrigerators, among other musical artists. In addition to the animal shows and competitions, the event will include a monster tractor pull, daredevil stunts, an old-fashioned family circus and the 65th Annual Schoolgirl Queen competition.
The Dutchess County Fair, the second largest agricultural event in New York State, is expected to draw a crowd of over 500,000 visitors this year to its fairgrounds in Rhinebeck, NY. This annual old-fashioned fair has become a popular family tradition. The farm animal contests are certainly the main attraction of the event. However, fruits and vegetables, crafts and antiques are also judged for their quality. The fair provides continual entertainment, a variety of tasty treats and hundreds of shows and exhibits.
For a real taste of the country, you don't want to miss the "Day in the Garden" festival in Bethel, NY. The farmer's market, craft village, hay maze and pony rides are just a few of the fall harvest activities that await you. What really makes this festival unique though is its scarecrow contest, the only one of its kind in New York. Everyone is invited to create his or her own scarecrow and the winning entry will be determined by a ballot voting system at this year's third annual "Scarecrows in the Garden."
For those of you with eager taste buds, the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival is your destination for flavor. This annual event offers fresh garlic, exotic foods that introduce garlic in unusual yet delicious preparations and instruction in garlic tasting, braiding and cooking. However, the festival is not limited to culinary interests. The atmosphere is enlivened by folk and ethnic music, dancing and entertainment, arts and crafts and other family activities. Everyone is invited to submit garlic-themed artwork to be judged in a contest based on creativity and reproduceability. In addition to a $300 reward, the winning entry will appear on posters, post cards and T-shirts in an effort to promote the festival. Last year's festival was an enormous success, drawing a crowd of 40,000 to the Village of Saugerties, NY. The proceeds from the festival are directed toward meeting local needs through scholarships for students serving their communities, donations to non-profit organizations in the Hudson Valley area and financial support for community facilities.
This summer the North American Cultural Laboratory (NaCl) will present its second annual contemporary theatre festival featuring artists from the U.S., Canada, Brazil and Italy. This innovative theatre company led by artistic director Brad Krumholz and actor Tannis Kowalchuk is located in Highland Lake, NY and offers entertainment for people of all ages. Krumholz and Kowalchuk have extensive theatrical experience and serve as both the group's directors and also as active members and mentors.
An essential component of The Catskill Festival of New Theatre is actor training, which occurs during "the internal work exchange," composed of training sessions and group forums for discussion between the guest companies. In addition to performances by a variety of international artists, the NaCl's own theatre company will present The Time Cycle, a 40 minute piece designed for young people that incorporates science, art, music and history to portray a magical tale of adventure. The performance features Krumholz, Kowalchuk and Megan Wyler and demonstrates characteristic elements of NaCl theatre, such as a capella song, stilt walking and fantastic costumes. Another notable feature of The Catskill Festival of New Theatre is an outdoor stilt-walking performance by local teens participating in a cultural and educational community project organized by the NaCl theatre during the course of the summer.
The Woodstock Film Festival provides an opportunity to showcase local talent and to cultivate film, video and media production in the area. The inaugural event held last year in the town of Woodstock received an enormous amount of positive feedback and publicity from broadcast and news media, including the Daily News and USA Today. With the help of corporate and community support and sponsorship, the second annual independent film festival promises to continue a successful tradition, offering the same caliber films, concerts and educational programs, as well as many new and exciting activities. The town-wide event consists of seminars and workshops, film screenings and the distribution of awards. Maverick Awards are presented in a variety of categories, including best feature, best documentary, best short, best animation short and best student film. This year a new award will be given for best score, in honor of composer Elmer Bernstein and his 50 years of work. The Best of the Woodstock Film Festival will be presented by the Catskill Mountain Foundation (map) at its newly renovated, 215 seat theatre in Hunter, NY the weekend after the Woodstock Film Festival concludes.
If relaxation and spiritual fulfillment are what you're craving, the 11th annual World Peace Festival promises to offer you some inner peace of your own. This global celebration, one of the largest and most diverse events of its kind, is set amidst the beautiful scenery of the Berkshire Mountains at the World Peace Sanctuary in Eastern Dutchess County. The festival will provide a diverse range of musical entertainment, including the Brazooca Band representing the influence of Brazilian music, sitarist Stephen Day and flamenco-style guitarist Maria Zemantauski. Other attractions include jugglers, comedians, magicians and dancers. The World Peace Festival also features an international food court to satisfy all tastes, an interfaith pavilion providing access to spiritual diversity and a market place overflowing with crafts from around the world. An area of the Sanctuary is designated for children to engage in their own recreation, under supervision, while their parents take advantage of the abundant activities the festival has to offer. The central focus of the event is the prayer for peace intended to echo all over the world.
The world of alternative medicine and therapy is just waiting to be explored, so come and introduce yourself to the Healing Arts Community of the Hudson Valley. The second annual Healing Arts Fest in Woodstock will combine a range of Holistic medical practitioners and physicians demonstrating healing art techniques, such as acupuncture, massage, meditation, yoga, aromatherapy, hypnotherapy and others. Kevin Kraft, a Reiki practitioner, hypnotherapist and the event's founder, hopes to have a crowd of more than 1,000 at this year's festival. Spirittus Inc., Kraft's not-for-profit corporation, organizes the whole festival in an effort to encourage and teach people to "integrate mind, body and spirit." For those children attending the festival who might not be engaged with silent meditation, alternative activities will include storytelling, Native American teachings and relaxation techniques.
At The Great Northern Catskills Balloon Festival and Airshow, Greene and Albany counties come together to experience the thrill of hot air balloons, military aircraft fly-overs and helicopter rides. Other festival features include carnival rides for children, a climbing wall challenge, choral performances and presentations from both the Greene and Albany County Sheriffs. Finally, the weekend event concludes with a spectacular display of fireworks.
Huguenot Street in New Paltz, NY is a National Historic Landmark District that is considered to be the oldest street in America with its original houses. The street itself and its historic stone houses will soon come alive during the upcoming Colonial Street Festival. Men and women in period dress, many of whom are Huguenot descendants who have remained in the region, will be ready and willing to answer questions and relate stories of colonial life. Some of the festivities will include food, live music, reenactments and crafts demonstrations. Lawn bowling, candle dipping and a puppet show are only a few of the activities specifically designed to keep kids busy while their parents soak in the rich history around them. Regardless of age, everyone can share in enjoying homemade treats made from "scratch" right before your eyes. The Huguenot Historical Society is particularly excited about a special performance by folk singers Pete Seeger and his grandson Tao Rodriguez and The Mammals at the festival.
For more than 20 years, thousands of people have gathered at the International Celtic Festival to enjoy the tunes of bagpipes and other traditional Celtic entertainment. This event is one of the most extensive gatherings of bagpipe bands in the Northeast. The two-day festival will be held at the Hunter Mountain Ski Bowl in Hunter, NY and will include performances by traditional Celtic group Iona, Celtic rock band Tempest, Irish folk band Kilbrannan and many other artists. Irish dancing, the pipe band parade, sheep herding and a caber toss are only some of the other cultural festivities of the weekend. The "Mass March," during which nearly 1,000 bagpipers and drummers march down Hunter Mountain in a dramatic processional, is traditionally one of the most extraordinary and popular parts of the festival.
Come and be part of the excitement and celebration. The tremendous activity and energy pulsating through the Catskill Region can be seen, heard and felt as families and communities come together to enjoy the festivities. Get ready to eat, drink, sing, dance, relax, learn, grow and most of all, have fun!