When native Canadian Melissa Auf der Maur first heard about “Black Friday” holiday shopping in this country, it seemed obvious to her, she says, that there ought to be an alternative for people like herself who prefer to gift friends and family with one-of-a-kind presents. As co-founder of Basilica Hudson – a circa-1880 17,000-square-foot former industrial space in Hudson that hosts cultural events – her instincts told her that she wasn’t alone; that surely with the wealth of creative people in the region, there was an audience for a handcrafted holiday marketplace that would take the holidays out of the shopping mall and bring them back into our local communities.
It turns out that she was right: The now-annual Basilica Farm & Flea marketplace at Basilica Hudson on Thanksgiving Day weekend was a success from the start. “It was so inspiring after the first year to see that I was correct: that there are people like me who want an alternative, and want to be surrounded by other people who feel the same and want to support small businesses,” says Auf der Maur. “It was exciting to know that we could empower small-business owners who are all just trying to make ends meet by doing something that they believe in, something they’re good at and something that they love. They just need support from the community to make it.”
The third annual Basilica Farm & Flea marketplace kicks off on Friday, November 27 from 2 to 9 p.m. with a market preview that offers visitors first access to the wide selection of more than 125 vendors offering vintage goods, local food products and handcrafted artisanal wares. The Black Friday Soiree begins at 5 p.m., with Friday-only vendors offering tastings of locally produced food, cider and distilled spirits accompanied by live music.
The marketplace on Saturday and Sunday, November 28 and 29 will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. New this year will be the Back Gallery, a vintage concept space co-presented by Escape Brooklyn, featuring even more vintage collectibles than in years past and makers who incorporate vintage items or aesthetics into their handmade collections.
Along with the shopping opportunities, visitors can attend educational workshops and cultural lectures. Workshops will include two Saturday sessions on jewelrymaking by author Nancy Soriano, former editor of Country Living magazine, who will offer tips from her recently published do-it-yourself book, The Jewelry Recipe Book. Workshops on Sunday will focus on beginning lampmaking with furniture designer Elise McMahon and a seasonal textile project with weaver Margot Becker.
General admission costs $5 for adults and is free for kids under age 12. Fees are charged to attend the workshops; details on registration and cost can be found on the Basilica Farm & Flea website. Space is limited.
Participating vendors at the marketplace are independent artists and designers, local food purveyors or collectors of high-quality vintage wares who agree to uphold the “no bar code” ethos of Basilica Farm & Flea. The event drew more than 7,000 people over three days last year, and going by the number of vendor applications that were submitted this year, 2015 will be the biggest event yet. “We got enough applications this year to hold two Farm & Fleas,” says Auf der Maur.
The event is held inside the vast Basilica Hudson, once a forge and foundry for steel railway wheels (it later housed a glue factory up to the 1980s). The building is “definitely the center Muse and inspiration to the project,” Auf der Maur says. While the Basilica has a “grand” aspect to it, the space somehow becomes adaptable to the use that they put it to, she adds. “It impresses the eye, but it’s not impossible to fill. It can feel incredible with just 50 people inside, when we have art exhibits: a big beautiful empty space that people can wander around in, and yet it doesn’t feel empty. But when it’s packed for our music festivals, with 1,500 people at once, it feels packed, but it’s perfectly manageable. It’s an interesting scale to work with.”
Already a registered not-for-profit, Basilica Hudson is in the process of becoming a 501 (c) (3). Auf der Maur, a musician, co-founded the Basilica in 2010 with filmmaker Tony Stone, her partner in both business and life. “We fell in love with the building and had dreams – and continue to have dreams – of filling it with everything that we love,” she says. They started with what they knew (film and music) and expanded from there to embrace all of the arts.
The couple see Basilica Hudson as lasting far beyond their own input, however. The move to become a 501 (c) (3) is in large part to establish its sustainability, Auf der Maur notes. “We’re the founders, but we’re not making this for ourselves. Basilica was born to be shaped by the needs and wants of the community. It’s very much a lifelong project, and we’re very conscious of wanting to let this grow on its own and eventually let go – to have others share it and be part of it and help shape it. We want this to be an institution that people will draw inspiration from and have a place to experiment and express themselves.”
They work in tandem now with other creative teams like the Hudson River Exchange, which is coordinating the Basilica Farm & Flea event. That group puts on its own summer market and curates pop-up events in the region throughout the year.
This weekend’s marketplace will serve as finale to the fifth year of programming at Basilica Hudson. “And of all our events, the Flea feels like the most natural fit,” Auf der Maur says. “This has been the most satisfying and inspiring event to put on because of how happy it makes everybody and how effortless it is. There’s a need for it, a want for it and a love of it. It’s exciting to see it grow every year, and we’re blown away by the response to it.”
She and Stone, a native New Yorker, share a young daughter now as well. They settled in Hudson as a middle ground between New York City and her roots in Montreal. “With this being my first real home in this country, I’ve fallen in love with America by living in Hudson; and a large part of that has to do with the Basilica and learning about the region through the people who come through our doors,” Auf der Maur says. “This weekend will be an amazing way for us to be thankful for the region, thankful for our audience and thankful for this beautiful building that has allowed us to dream and to bring people together. It’s a great way for us to wrap up the season every year.”
Basilica Farm & Flea Black Friday Soiree, November 27, 5-9 p.m., marketplace, Friday, 2-9 p.m., Saturday/Sunday, November 28/29, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., $5, Basilica Hudson, 110 South Front Street, Hudson; (518) 822-1050, www.basilicahudson.com, www.basilicafarmandflea.com.