Tales to tell at the Ulster County Fairgrounds


The power and delight of storytelling – passing stories from generation to generation –will be celebrated again this year in New Paltz on Sunday, October 23, when the Mountain Laurel Waldorf School presents Arm-of-the-Sea Theater’s Turtle Island Medicine Show, the Vanaver Caravan, Star Penny Puppetry and much more at their great annual festival at the Ulster County Fairgrounds.

There will be storytelling for all ages from a wide variety of cultural representations, including the nationally acclaimed Storycrafters with their folktales from around the world; James Bruchac, award-winning author of popular children’s books (also a tracker and wilderness expert, and son of the award-winning Abenaki author/storyteller Joseph Bruchac); local musician Mark Rust, a champion of this storytelling artform as a vehicle for the shared awareness of what makes us human; Suzane Stapleford, master fiber artist and local resident, who will spin wool and fairytales for children of all ages along with her husband Jim, a blacksmith; and Signora Bella, the Great Italian Equilibrist, who brings to life the tradition of the traveling performers of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. In addition, Star Penny Puppetry, a group formed over a decade ago by the school’s early childhood staff, will present Little Babaji and the Tigers in the puppet house. All the puppets and scenery in the show are created by nursery school and kindergarten teachers.

The giant puppets and masks of Arm-of-the-Sea bring a unique magic to the stage in contemporary fables such as Turtle Island Medicine Show and Criss-Crossing Borders. Turtle Island is based on the Lenape Indian origin story described by poet Gary Snyder as “the old/new name for the continent, based on many creation myths of the people who have been living here for millennia.” Created by directors Marlena Marallo and Patrick Wadden, the story features painted papier-mache masks and puppet figures that range in size from 12 inches to the 16-foot-tall Tree of Life, with an inventive score by Dean Jones involving gongs, hoop drum, jaw harp and trombone scats in a medley of live sound. Characters played by Dale Gibbons, Zoë Millard, Carl Welden and Patrick Wadden animate the script into the fossil-fueled modern moment where climate change threatens to destabilize this Turtle Island home: our planet. Criss-Crossing is smaller in scale but just as impactful, as two bilingual performers portray jaguars, monkeys, a sea turtle and a fisherman of Central America. This show incorporates a handmade style of visual storytelling to portray kinship ties between animals and humans, and between people living on opposite sides of a border.

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Add to this spectacular lineup an array of international foods from area restaurants including the Village Tea Room, Harvest Café and Reggae Boy, artisan crafts, traveling entertainment – the ever-popular Bernstein Bard Quintet and the Caravan Kids – plus pumpkin-painting and horsedrawn carriage rides around the grounds, children’s games led by Thomas Gallo.

Bring the whole family to the Ulster County Fairgrounds for a day of activities that will nurture one and all with fun and unique learning experiences. Single admission is $10, with a special family rate of $25, and kids age 5 and under get in free. To learn more about Mountain Laurel, visit www.mountainlaurel.org or call (845) 255-0033.

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