A classic harvest festival

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Photos by Lauren Thomas


Under a clear blue sky at the Ulster County Fairgrounds, festivalgoers perused produce, checked out livestock, and enjoyed the entertainment at the second-ever Hudson Valley Harvest Festival last weekend.

As the chilly autumn winds whipped around them at the edge of the fairgrounds, children ran to the Port Ewen Fire Department’s giant ladder truck and the New Paltz Police Department’s SWAT team vehicle, which were a part of the “Touch-a-Truck” event. A young boy clambered up the stainless-steel steps to a tractor trailer’s cab – with a little help from his dad. Nearby an older girl smiled from behind the wheel of the fire engine.

On the main musical stage – one of three – kids from the Paul Green Rock Academy in Woodstock stepped up to the microphone. Most performers dread an early-morning slot, before people are fully caffeinated, because it’s nearly impossible to engage the crowd. The young rockers didn’t care. They blasted punk music and covers across the open lawns. The crowd – which, to be fair, did include some proud parents – ate it up.


With more than 40 acts and three stages, music was a huge focus for the two-day festival in 2013. But the harvest festival, cosponsored by Cornell Cooperative Extension and Family, is also multi-faceted. Besides the animals, farmers’ market and children’s activities, HVHF also had a classic car show. Cooperative Extension of Ulster County held classes on both days, teaching people a diverse range of rural skills, from chain-saw safety to how to raise backyard chickens.

“It’s been a good experience. Extension’s been happy because we’ve been able to do a lot of ag education,” said Lydia Reidy, the executive director of the local Cornell Cooperative Extension branch. “I think it’s going good. The weather held out for us … and people seem really happy. That was one of our goals.”

Both Cornell Cooperative Extension and Family of Woodstock are using the festival to build awareness of what they do locally. Cornell helps farmers and gardeners learn new skills, and also puts on food nutrition programs in urban areas. Family of Woodstock does everything from providing food, clothing, shelter, substance abuse counseling and a crisis hotline to people who can’t otherwise afford to pay. Family often relies on local farms to donate fresh produce for their food pantry.

Both groups are bound by their connection to local agriculture – but also to the volunteer labor that helps keep them running. Hudson Valley Harvest Festival featured a special recognition of volunteers put on by UlsterCorps, a group that helps would-be volunteers find a gig that suits them.

According to Beth McLendon, UlsterCorps’ director, the ceremony to honor volunteers on Sept. 21 went well. Almost 70 volunteers – including people from Family and Cornell, and people who helped in the recovery from Superstorm Sandy – were praised for their work. Other volunteers, like SUNY New Paltz students, helped set up UlsterCorps’ booth at the festival.

“This was to highlight the wonderful work of volunteers and hopefully to get other people to volunteer. There’s an enormous need,” McLendon said. “There’s so many great things happening in the community that people don’t know about.”

The festival, especially popular with families with young children, also included livestock demonstrations where people could see cows, goats, horses, ducks and bunnies. Harvest Fest also handled the coveted 4-H milkshake booth.

To take a look at pictures from this year and the 2012 Harvest Festival, head to https://www.hudsonvalleyharvestfestival.com/.