Spring Fest 2014 in Highland (with photo gallery)

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Photos by Lauren Thomas


The Town of Lloyd’s third annual Spring Fest in the hamlet of Highland on Saturday, May 17 couldn’t have been planned for a more perfect day weather-wise if they’d ordered it up from Central Casting. After torrential downpours the day before, Saturday dawned brightly, clearing the way for the family oriented street festival to begin.

A joint effort of the Highland Business Association and the Town of Lloyd Events Committee, it was an all-day affair from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. With the streets closed to traffic, there was activity everywhere, from the live music onstage to the street vendors to the children’s carnival, something new to the event this year.

The Boy Scouts built many of the games, including a clever “frog-launcher” and “mini-putt” golf course activity. Volunteers helped out and dispensed tickets to the winners to be turned in for prizes, overseen by assistant scout master Steve Odden of Troop #70.


The Highland Public Library drew a crowd all day with the “Pitch Burst” activity they organized (think “dunking booth”). Water balloons were suspended over the willing heads of victims… er, make that participants, who got drenched when the kids hit the target with a pitched ball. Those cheerful volunteers included “Coach Tom” from the Highland United Soccer Club program, Highland High School principal Pete Harris and Lloyd Town Board member Kevin Brennie.

Event organizers put a family spin on a carnival “kisses booth” with chances to win a container of chocolate kisses by guessing the correct amount the jar contained.

But as popular as the games for kids were, the adults gave them a run for their money in that department. After the kids in the crowd were given a chance to play a musical chairs game on Main Street, it was time for teens and adults to give it a shot, egged on by a DJ who kept the final two circling to music so long it made one dizzy just watching them. The winner was Domonique Sanchez from Gina Marie’z Academy of Performing Arts, who performed a hip hop dance earlier in the day. She received a gift certificate for ice cream from the Frozen Caboose in Highland for her efforts.

Then there was the Waiter’s Race, where participants carried cocktail trays holding three plastic glasses half full of water along with a plastic water bottle as they raced through the streets. They started at Town Hall, rounded the corner onto Main Street and ran (slightly downhill, I should add) to the finish line in front of the bandstand by the First United Methodist Church.

The scoring was a bit confusing: the first across the finish line was Sam Curcio, but he was demoted to third place because his tray wasn’t as dry as the person who came across the line third. Apparently, speed and the driest tray were the right combination. Second place went to Sam’s brother, Dustin Curcio. Both young men work at Mohonk Mountain House; Dustin in the bar and Sam in room service.

Participants didn’t have to be professional waiters, but it helped: anyone who’s done time in the restaurant business knows there are a few tricks to the trade and practice doesn’t hurt, either. Six brave representatives of the Rail Trail Association put on a valiant effort wearing waiter black-and-whites with fluorescent vests, but a most interesting waiter uniform award could have been given to either the lobster mascot from Mariner’s Harbor who ran rather gingerly in a head-to-toe bright red lobster suit — kind of like running in an evening gown — or volunteer firefighter Francis Piscopo in full fireman gear, breathing like Darth Vader through his mask.

The most competitive event of the day by far, though, were the Bed Races, which followed the same path the earlier Waiter’s Race took from Town Hall down to the bandstand. The crowd cheered as four teams from Highland competed: Studio 81, CrossFit Mid-Hudson, Team America and a group endeavor from Sal’s Place that featured cook Christi Gasparro as “Sally-gator,” wearing a full green alligator suit with only her face showing, riding on a bed pushed by Scott Parise, Christian McKinstry, Josh Cuddy and Chezzy Calenti, several of whom wore alligator headgear.

The teams raced two at a time, stopping at the curve in the road to perform a “musical chairs” type maneuver in which the occupant of the bed jumped off and all the team members ran in circles around the bed a few times before the bed-rider jumped back on and the team took off again down Main Street pushing the bed and its occupant down to the finish line as fast as possible.

The teams were asked to match their costumes to the decoration of their beds. It was hard to decide whether it was more entertaining to watch the Sally-gator and her team or Team America with its Uncle Sam character. Andrew McKee and Bethany O’Dell organized that group consisting of Army reservist Ryan Brennan, criminal justice student Sean O’Dell, brothers John and Mike McKee — Mike just enlisted in the Marines — and Taylor Lent as the bed-rider (the lightest weight of the group chosen for that role for strategic reasons).

There were several elimination rounds of two teams going head-to-head to narrow down the field until just before the final round when the announcer said the races were over and the team from Sal’s Place was announced as overall winners (again, the scoring procedure was a little confusing, but all involved seemed to have a great time anyway).

Other happenings during the day included demonstrations of karate and judo by beginning and experienced students of the New Paltz Karate Academy and spirited performances by local youngsters from Gina Marie’z Academy of Performing Arts and the Highland Huskies Cheerleaders. And the students of Highland’s From Stage to Screen Acting Studio previewed their upcoming shows to be held at the Cunneen Hackett Theatre in Poughkeepsie in June: the younger group sang the very catchy and upbeat “I Wanna Be Like You” from Jungle Book while the teens from the studio performed a group number from Sondheim’s Into the Woods (junior version) and two soloists sang the duet “It Takes Two” from the show.

Then there was the traveling magic act; two young men in black suits who carried their suitcases of tricks all over the hamlet to do impromptu performances.

An art exhibit was held in the hamlet’s former pharmacy building of work created by local students of all grades. Particularly notable were the oversize portraits done by 11th and 12th grade students of Aliza Driller: approximately four by six feet in dimension, they had genuine presence.

Live music from “In the Pocket” was at center stage from noon to 3 p.m. and “33 and a Third” entertained later in the afternoon into evening. Craft vendors offered a selection of jewelry and leather handbags and purveyors of local honey and baked goods sold their wares. Food vendors offered everything from shish kebobs and kettle corn to pretzels, hot dogs and pizza. The Boy Scouts raised funds for their various projects by selling nachos and snowcones, and Vigneto Cafe opened an outpost at the festival for the day. For those with the heartiest appetite (or maybe the strongest constitutions), Elia’s House of Sausage held a hot dog eating contest.

And seemingly all of the local community groups had booths; from the Rotary Club to the Rail Trail Association to the Town of Lloyd Environmental Conservation Council (ECC) and more. With those reminders at every turn of the time and efforts devoted to community by so many local residents and the crowds of enthusiastic festival-goers all day long, Spring Fest seems destined to continue well into the future.