Meredith Dairy Fest
Photo courtesy Meredith Dairy Fest
Started 11 years ago as a benefit to raise money for the Meridale Fire Department, the fire company that serves the town of Meredith, founders John Hamilton and Bob Polinskie originally envisioned the Dairy Fest as a dairy trade show where dairy farmers from across the state would have conferences, showcase different products and debut new technologies. Over the years they have watched the festival grow to a large-scale event attracting thousands of people over a two-day period. Over one hundred volunteer firefighters from the Meridale Fire Department and the Andes Fire Department donate their time to make the Dairy Fest happen. John and Bob also enlist the help of the Oneonta Job Corp and volunteers from the surrounding towns. Proceeds from the festival help raise money for the Meridale and Andes Fire Departments while additionally bringing thousands of dollars of commerce to the town of Meredith, an otherwise sleepy town nestled deep within the Catskill Mountains.
The event takes place on an eleven hundred acre plot of land that, until the 1950s, was a working dairy farm. The Meridale Farm was one of the largest dairy farms in the area, with several herds of Jersey Cows. Farmers would drive horse-guided carriages over forty miles to use Meridale Farmsí icehouse, the remnants of which can be easily spotted from the site of the Meredith Diary Fest. The rolling hills and picturesque pastures are a jaw-dropping backdrop for any summer festival. Visitors should plan to bring a camera if just to capture the inspiring landscapes of the Delaware County countryside.
This year the festival falls on the weekend of June 13 and 14. The festival is two days filled with bovine themed entertainment, shopping and eating. The Meridale Fire Department cooks all the food for the event, and if the stereotypes are correct about firemen and the culinary arts, you can almost certainly count on some fine home cooked goodies. The festival is host to over one hundred different vendors, including blue stone carvers, ice cream vendors, local artists, maple candy dealers, cheese makers, antique dealers, craft dealers and many more. They also have cow-milking and butter churning demonstrations, booths promoting agricultural education and a booth dedicated to the rich history of Meridale Farms. For the kids the Dairy Fest has games, kite flying and a forty-five minute hayride though the countryside. The hayride snakes through the hills and through the mountains, showing off some of the more amazing views in the northeast.
The animal tent is historically the most popular attraction at the festival. Free from the burden of competition that often accompanies county fairs, the animals at the Dairy Fest are on display purely for the pleasure of the festivalgoers. Animals such as cows, oxen, chickens, pigs, goats, buffalo, alpacas and sheep are transported in from various local farms, and farmers are present armed with answers to even the most common questions about the animals. This interaction with the farmers creates a more educational and welcoming atmosphere than you would encounter at your local petting zoo.
The music tent is filled with picnic tables and a stage. In previous years people have gathered here to relax and enjoy the local sounds, sights and tastes of the festival. Past musical highlights have included clogging groups, country music bands, local school choirs, gospel music groups and many others.
Admission to the festival is free with the only charge incurred being a minimal parking fee. The Dairy Fest board members have painstakingly compiled a remarkable list of sponsors that help promote and finance the festival every year. If you are interested in becoming a sponsor or want to volunteer for the festival please visit their Web site at www.dairyfest.org or call 888 290 9415 or 607 746 6882. Again, the dates for the festival are June 13 and 14 from 10 am to 5 pm.