High Falls Fair Day this Saturday fêtes Marc Chagall

Marc Chagall walking with his son David down Mohonk Road in High Falls, 1948 (photo by Charles Leirens)

The great Jewish painter Marc Chagall spent much of his life on a sort of one-man diaspora, pursued by the Muse from his homeland of Belarus to Paris, by the Nazis from Paris to the US and by the McCarthyites back to France once again. In the midst of all his wanderings, he found a temporary rural respite in our own backyard: a little house on Mohonk Road in High Falls. There he resided from 1946 to 1948 with his lover Virginia Haggard, mother of his only son. And according to letters that he wrote in later years, he cherished a dream of coming back to High Falls to live one day.

For years the story of Chagall’s Ulster County sojourn was only a local rumor, but enough evidence has been assembled in recent years to support a “Chagall in High Falls” exhibit at the D & H Canal Historical Society and Museum in that town. An expanded version of the exhibit, which drew visitors from far and wide to the tiny Rondout Valley hamlet, will reopen this Saturday, July 7 in the Museum’s chapel at 21 Mohonk Road. The reinvigorated show features new materials and original lithographs, as well as documents and correspondence that trace the protean Chagall’s career and how his work was shaped by his residence in High Falls.


The opening is the centerpiece of the festivities associated with the eighth annual High Falls Fair Day, an annual townwide summer celebration of the simple joys of Hudson Valley small-town life. Sponsored by the High Falls Civic Association, it will run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., followed by a birthday reception for Chagall at the Museum at 5 p.m. Another highlight of this year’s Fair Day will be the public unveiling of the winning design in a contest to create a new pair of High Falls town gateway signs. The two signs being retired will be disposed of in a silent auction that will help the Association defray the cost of the new signage.

High Falls Fair Day 2012 will emphasize events and crafts for children, including face-painting and a family scavenger hunt at the D & H Canal Five Locks Walk, a National Historic Landmark. A “Taste of High Falls” will provide samples of fine food from local restaurants and the Community Church will hold a chicken barbecue, complemented by live music and refreshments from the High Falls Café.

Local potter Don Eckert will show how pottery is thrown, while Micki Wood-Jensen will demonstrate quilting all day at the Flea Market at Grady Park. There, you can also buy chances for the raffle of three quilts donated by Alice Schoonmaker of Saunderskill Farms, for the benefit of the Canal Society. Vendors of all sorts of wares will line Second Street.


The eighth annual High Falls Fair Day, this Saturday, July 7, will run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., followed by a birthday reception for the late painter Marc Chagall at the D & H Canal Museum at 5 p.m. For more information on High Falls Fair Day events, call the Civic Association at (845) 687-8981 or visit www.highfallscivic.org. For more on “Chagall in High Falls,” visit www.canalmuseum.org or www.chagallinhighfalls.com. The expanded Chagall show will remain open until October, during the same hours as the D & H Canal Museum: Saturdays and Sundays (as well as most holidays) from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.