Gardiner Day has been happening every September for 27 years, give or take a year or two when the host site was completely flooded by a hurricane. “We haven’t had a nice day for the festival in two or three years,” said organizer Jewell Turner, fretting as Tropical Storm Hermine made its way up the East Coast. “It’s nerve-wracking, but it always ends up okay.”
Gardiner Day 2016 happens this Saturday, September 10 from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at George Majestic Memorial Park, by which time Hermine will be but a distant memory. Another member of the organizing committee, Cindy Dates, recalled some years in which “We have had to put hay down on the wet spots.”
But the party still goes on, rain or shine, with much of the action clustered under tents and canopies and the live entertainment housed in the pole barn. The lineup of musicians can be found here.
According to Dates, the event’s biggest draw for teens, the New Paltz School of Rock, will make a return visit. Other entertainment will include live martial-arts demonstrations by New Paltz Karate and World Oyama Karate, skateboard tricks sponsored by Sacred, live dance from Got Rhythm, and Rusty Johnson’s Wild Animal Show. There will also be demos of Disc Golf at the park’s recently established range for that sport.
Kids at this free family-oriented festival can enjoy pony and hayrides, face-painting, balloon-twisting, hair-braiding and henna tattoos. The Goodnow Family Farm will be setting up a petting zoo – “It’s the first time we’ve had that,” said Turner.
Also new this year will be a book walk organized by Marie Zapf from the Gardiner Library. “You have to follow the owl,” Turner explained, reading from placards that tell a story, placed at intervals along a trail from the main part of the park towards the pole barn. “When you find the owl, you get a free book!”
A couple of activities from Gardiner Days past will not be returning, according to the organizers. There will be no dressage performance by Peruvian horses this year; nor will the Ulster County sheriff’s department be setting up a scuba tank. But a state trooper will put a K-9 partner through its paces, and the Adonai Lodge will take photos of kids for IDs, to be stored on disc.
Fair food vendors are a major attraction of Gardiner Day, and this year the event will host foodtrucks for the first time. There will be burgers and hot dogs, ice cream, Jamaican and Italian food. The Girl Scouts will operate a drinks truck and the Boy Scouts will have a booth selling popcorn. “And the New Hurley Church does fried dough,” noted Turner. “Everybody loves fried dough!”
Dates has been busy recruiting artisans to do ongoing live demos in the country living tent. “We try to get old-time crafts in there,” she explained. This year’s lineup of demonstrations will include woodcarver Leo Bozydaj, knitter Angela Wood, quilter Dolly Wodin, beader Carol Cypher and basketweaver Kim Carver. Attendees can watch the artists at work and ask questions about the process.
Except for food and crafts from the vendors and a 50/50 raffle, everything at Gardiner Day is free, thanks to a yearlong program of community fundraising events. “We’ve never had an entrance fee,” said Turner. “And politicking is not allowed!” Originally conceived by former town supervisor Mike Moran, the festival is “strictly run by volunteers. It’s not put on by the town.” Besides Dates and Turner, the current Gardiner Day committee includes Carol Lohrman, Barbara Meszaros, Jackie Wild, Jaynie Marie Aristeo, Carol O’Byrne, Sharon DeMatteo, David Dukler, Patrick Murphy, Eileen and Stewart Glenn and Judy Bacon.
“It’s a wonderful event. It’s free, it’s for the family and it’s for the community. That’s why we do it,” emphasized Turner. “At the end, I have a nice feeling that I did something for the community.”
“Everybody does have a good time,” Dates agreed.