Photos by Lauren Thomas
The focus was on farming at the Hudson Valley Harvest Festival at the Ulster County Fairgrounds last weekend. The family festival was created several years ago as a fundraiser for Family of Woodstock and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ulster County (CCEUC). The two groups got together in 2012 to make up for deficits in their funding by producing a celebration of the county’s rich agricultural history and its present-day status as producer of more than $46 million in crops annually. Having completed its third successful outing now, the Hudson Valley Harvest Festival seems destined to become an annual event.
The nominal $5 admission fee was kept low, said organizers, so that families could have a full day of fun together without spending a great deal of money. And while many of the activities were for kids – bouncy houses and inflatables, a “pick-your-own” pumpkin patch, lots of DIY craft tables for kids to make simple crafts – there were things for the adults to enjoy, too, from live music all day to a flea market set up by Family of Woodstock.
Among the biggest attractions were the 4-H Club’s “famous milkshakes” booth and their animal exhibits, where kids and adults alike enjoyed observing horses, pigs, goats and bunnies along with the odd chinchilla or two.
Saturday’s affair featured the “Farm Olympic” games – sack races, the Zucchini Javelin, Hay Bale Hurdles and the Greased Watermelon Relay, among others – and a classic car show with awards given out for Best in Show and People’s Choice. Sunday had the “Touch-a-Truck” activity for kids to sit behind the wheel of a service vehicle.
Agricultural exhibits included a wheat grinding demonstration. And in the best tradition of county fairs, contests were organized for apple pie and cupcake baking and jam, jelly and pickle making. A photography exhibit awarded prizes, as well. Food vendors offered a selection that ranged from county fair favorites cotton candy (made with maple syrup) and fried dough to Mexican specialties, hot dogs and hamburgers.
And while the emphasis was on fun, organizers hope that the festival brings awareness of all that the nonprofit organizations accomplish. The Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ulster County, founded in 1913, offers resources and education to the public through ongoing programming in 4-H youth development, family and consumer science and environmental programs. Their Master Gardener program trains volunteers who receive research-based instruction on horticulture and then agree to share that knowledge with the public through a variety of activities. A new graduating class of Master Gardeners is trained every other year, and those who continue on in the program are required to obtain continuing education annually to keep up on the latest developments in horticulture.
Family of Woodstock, established in 1970, operates crisis hotlines, emergency food pantries and shelters for victims of domestic abuse. They also provide counseling services and court advocates for those in need, all services free of charge and confidential. Much of the food for their emergency program is donated by local farms.