Gardiner’s Bounty cocktail party at the Maplestone Inn will raise money for the library

Last week, representatives of the Gardiner Library met at Maplestone Inn in New Paltz to finalize details for their summer fundraiser (called Gardiner’s Bounty) to be held on Aug. 18. Left to right: Gardiner Library Trustee Dave Dukler, Michael Bernardo of Café Mio, Sean Roche of Maplestone Inn, library trustee Doris Chorny, Patty Roche of Maplestone Inn and library trustee Leitha Ortiz-Lesh. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

People looking to keep the Gardiner Library running have a whole new chance to party and donate money during Gardiner’s Bounty on Aug. 18.

Gardiner’s Bounty is a cocktail party fundraiser with a silent and live auction to be held at the Maplestone Inn bed & breakfast.

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“How this all came to pass was that one of the clerks at the library had the idea that perhaps we should do something similar to Taste of New Paltz,” organizer Leitha Ortiz-Lesh explained. “That was the initial kernel — let’s talk about all the different things Gardiner has to offer: all the restaurants, all the farmers. It just kept expanding and expanding.”

Eventually, the idea of a festival akin to Taste became the intimate cocktail you’re reading about now. The size of the venue might have shrunk since those initial planning meetings, but the idea has not.

“The focus is not just the farms, it’s the people of Gardiner,” Ortiz-Lesh said. The fundraiser examines not only the town’s farms — of which there are plenty – but it also tries to highlight the humanity of the small, rural burg. Auction items feature prizes that have a strong connection to the town: vintage movie posters sold by a local collector, passes to restaurants and New York Yankee tickets.

“This is what you can get from Gardiner,” she said.

The library holds a special place in Gardiner that only makes sense when the town’s size is considered. With fewer than 6,000 residents, it has less than half the residents of nearby New Paltz. Instead of a bustling state college, it has a quaint Main Street packed with antiques, a nice wine shop and good food.

Gardiner Library has been a meeting place. It routinely hosts a mix of events — like Zumba class, canasta games and yoga — that probably doesn’t exist all under one roof any place else. Roughly half of the town’s residents hold library cards.

“In Gardiner, the library has really morphed into a quasi-community center,” said David Dukler, a library board member. “And libraries are no longer just print. We have, obviously, a big tech component. And any day you go in there, you’ll see people accessing our Internet, using our computers.”

Money raised by the event will help support general programing at the library. And in a cash-strapped era, it’s pretty important to go easy on the taxpayers.

“We are supported by the Gardiner residents through a tax levy. But that doesn’t cover all of our costs,” Dukler said. “One of the board’s missions is to raise funds to support the mission of the library … With fundraising, it’s more people who are willing to contribute rather than people getting assessed a tax levy.”

Food will be provided during the event from two talented local chefs — Mike Bernardo, of Café Mio, and Bruce Kazan, of Main Course.

According to Bernardo, the cuisine will bring together a mix of homegrown ingredients from five local farms to create hors d’oeuvres and finger food. For Café Mio’s young chef, his involvement is also a way of giving back.

“For someone like me, I can do more with my time than I could do with my money,” he said. “I can’t donate $1,000 to do an event like this, but I can give my time and hopefully raise more.”

True Gardinerites might be wondering whatever happened to the library’s annual Southern BBQ. The Sycoffs, who normally put it on, have opted out this year. Gardiner’s Bounty is taking its place as the library’s big fundraiser.

People in town have fond memories of that pig roast, which typically occurred at Majestic Park in late summer. Organizers of the cocktail party said they didn’t want to trample on that legacy.

“We didn’t want to mimic it,” Ortiz-Lesh said. Even so, there is one familiar holdover from the old barbecue — the library cake auction. That one event often led to outrageous bidding wars between neighbors. Cakes sometimes went for hundreds of dollars — all to support the library.

Gardiner’s Bounty will take place at Maplestone Inn, 541 Route 32 South. Tickets cost $50 per person and are available by advanced sale only. The cut-off date for ticket sales is Aug. 10, so make sure to get them before then.

Any tickets bought by July 31 will place that person into a raffle for a free overnight stay at the inn. Three rooms are up for grabs, so more than one lucky winner will be spending the night on Aug. 18. If you do happen to win the raffle, you’ll hear about it by Aug. 4 so you have time to make arrangements.

Gardiner’s Bounty will run from 5 until 8:30 p.m. on the evening of Aug. 18.

For more information, call 255-1255 or go to www.gardinerlibrary.org.