Paltzonians always know that the summer tourist season is here when traffic backs up on Main Street all the way from the bridge over the Wallkill to Thruway Exit 18 on Memorial Day weekend. All those creeping cars are there for a very good reason: the first of the year’s two visitations of the Woodstock-New Paltz Art & Crafts Fair to the Ulster County Fairgrounds on Libertyville Road.
The Crafts Fair has been a reliable harbinger of summer, as well as closing out the season on Labor Day weekend, for 34 years now, and continues to draw crowds because the quality of the work is so high and the selection so mind-bogglingly huge. It’s a juried show, tough to get into, with some 240 artists and craftspeople displaying their wares. The stunning backdrop of the Shawangunk cliffs, live demonstrations of crafters at work, lively lineup of musical entertainment and tasty fair-food choices all make it a grand day out, even if you somehow manage not to find a bunch of beautiful objects that you just can’t live without.
The spring Crafts Fair usually emphasizes outdoor furnishings, and this year is no exception, spotlighting the Corten steel environmental sculptures of New Hampshire-based artist Aaron Brown. Some are colored with powdercoated pigments, while others will weather to a natural-looking oxidized texture without ever rusting through. If your back forty lacks a dramatic visual focal point, this may be just the place to look.
The Woodstock-New Paltz Art & Crafts Fair opens at 10 a.m. on May 23 through 25, closing at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday and at 4 p.m. on Monday, Memorial Day. Allow lots of time to look at stuff, and consider driving the “back way” to the Fairgrounds via Gardiner if you want to avoid sitting in slow-moving traffic. Parking is free and ample; admission to the Fairgrounds costs $9 for adults, $8 for seniors and nothing at all for kids age 12 and under, who will find a tentful of craftmaking activities to keep them occupied while their parents browse.
Woodstock-New Paltz Art & Crafts Fair, Saturday/Sunday, May 23/24, 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Monday, May 25, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., $9/$8, Ulster County Fairgrounds, 249 Libertyville Road, New Paltz; www.quailhollow.com.