Mums are almost as ubiquitous in the fall season as pumpkins, but nowhere are their vibrant colors displayed so beautifully as Seamon Park, which is decked out throughout October for the annual Mum Festival.
In spite of its name, the festival, now in its 48th year, exalts more than the chrysanthemum. It celebrates all the beauty the season has to offer in this corner of the Hudson Valley. As Ethel Resso, a member of the Mum Festival Committee, notes, one of the things that attracts people to this festival year after year is the beauty of the entire park. She calls the park, which she describes as an inviting place to sit and enjoy nature, “the heart of Saugerties.”
Setting itself apart from other fall festivals that have perhaps more hustle and bustle, the Mum Festival has a sense of leisure to it. On the rain date of Sunday, October 13, couples strolled the grounds, stopping to take pictures beside the floral displays or fountains. Parents sat on marble benches in the shade of trees adorned in reds and golds watching their children roll and tumble down the park’s steep hills or run through the wide open spaces.
This celebration of natural beauty could also be seen in the art show, which Resso deemed the “can’t miss” part of the festival. Watercolor, acrylic and oil paintings of birds and flowers hung beside photographs of local landmarks on the lower level of the park. Regine Petrosky, who has been participating in the art show for nearly ten years, had 14 of her pieces, some new and some older, on display this year. Sketching in the afternoon light in front of her works, Petrosky said she is inspired by the world around her, and of her watercolors said, “I love it when the water does its own thing.”
In addition to celebrating beauty, the Mum Festival also celebrates history. The history of Seamon Park, which has been open to the public since 1909, was recounted in the festival’s program. The history of the festival’s traditions, particularly the crowning of the Mum Queen and her court, was also celebrated in the vintage photographs of past titleholders on display in the front of the park. New this year was the ability to celebrate the history of individuals and families. Patrons could purchase a foam mum on which they could inscribe the name of a loved one who had passed on. These foam mums were hung on the “Mum Full of Memories Tree” where they will be on view through October.
Of course even with its unique qualities, the Mum Festival is still a festival, and as such had its share of family-friendly activities. The face painting booth, staffed by Saugerties Junior High teacher Tina VanVoorhis and members of the Key Club, offered a variety of designs to delight children, as well as airbrushed tattoos. The booth had a steady stream of young customers and raised money for the PTSA.
Also appealing to young children were the two wildlife shows featuring animals such as monitor lizards and rattlesnakes. Children could interact more closely with animals at the petting zoo area at the top of the park where there was a miniature pony, a donkey, and a chinchilla, among others.
Vendors near the petting zoo area appealed to all members of the family, offering such items as handmade jewelry and sweets. Bobby Jo Morey of BJ’s Goodies, which sells pretzels, Twinkies, apples and bananas dipped in chocolate, as well as cheesecake and other desserts, was selling her products at the Mum Festival for the first time, and said business was going well. In spite of the colorful display of candy which tantalized the younger crowd, she said, “I’m not gonna lie, even more adults are drawn to us than children.”
Those adults and children as well also enjoyed horse and wagon rides and a variety of music throughout the day, including banjo music and the Saugerties Community Band. These activities, and their idyllic setting, are a part of what Ethel Resso, of Noah’s Ark Nursery School and a member of the planning committee, calls “old-fashioned fun and a true Saugerties tradition.”