Flooded by the lower Esopus Creek over the course of thousands of years, the fertile Hurley flats were what attracted the Dutch to the area nearly 400 years ago, resulting in the founding of Kingston and Hurley. Before the land was wrested from them, the Native Americans had grown corn on the flats for perhaps centuries. Corn is grown there still – it’s the leading cash crop – and so it makes perfect sense that every August, the Hurley Heritage Society holds the Hurley Corn Festival at the Hurley Reformed Church. Now in its 32nd year and scheduled for August 18, the Festival is famous for its corn chowder and pork sliders (shredded pork, sauce and cole slaw on a roll), along with its crafts demonstrations, antiques vendors, children’s activities, fresh produce – provided by Gill Corn Farms, which grows it all just a stone’s throw away – and encampment of the Third Regiment of the Ulster County Militia.
This year, the Festival is waiving the admission fee (though donations are welcome). The economic downturn means that there will only be 19 antiques vendors, compared to 44 in years past. But the encampment should be as splendid as ever: The army regiment, in period uniforms dating from the French and Indian War, will be pitching its tents, and will be visited by a small contingent of Native Americans. It’s a sight that recalls Hurley’s frontier days, when two wars broke out between the settlers and the Esopus Indians (as they were called by the Dutch); the effect of the second war, a foretaste of Sherman’s scorched-earth policy when he marched to Atlanta at the end of the Civil War, was pretty much to banish the natives from these parts forever.
Woodworkers will help visitors craft a pen out of a piece of wood turned on a lathe; with the addition of some ballpoint-pen ink, they can practice the old-fashioned activity of writing. Wayne Waligurski will demonstrate how to craft metal Colonial lamps; he is the owner of Hurley Patentee Lighting, whose handcrafted, authentic-looking fixtures appeared in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies and Interview with a Vampire. There will be soap- and jewelrymakers and a guy who makes wooden toys. Children can craft cornhusk dolls, participate in a corn-shucking contest and play a game in which they identify trinkets hidden in the hay by feeling them.
Eric Fiore, who is in charge of the vendors, said that although the event is held at the Hurley Reformed Church, the event benefits the Hurley Heritage Society, which maintains a small museum. “This helps us pay the bills and keep the heat on,” he said. The distinction between the two organizations and the events that they host is further confused by the fact that Hurley’s Stone House Day, held in July, is hosted by the church but occurs in the village’s various historic domiciles: very bewildering, although it’s all good.
The Hurley Corn Festival is held on August 18 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Hurley Reformed Church, located at 11 Main Street. Call (845) 338-1661 for more info or visit www.hurleyheritagesociety.org.