New Paltz Independence Day weekend features fireworks, tiny houses

The 2014 fireworks finale (photos by Lauren Thomas)

It’s nothing new for the Town of New Paltz to hold its Independence Day fireworks extravaganza on a day other than July 4. In fact, says Kathy Preston, secretary to town Supervisor Neil Bettez, the policy the town has adopted moving forward is to maintain the consistency of celebrating Independence Day every year on the Friday of the holiday weekend.

What is new, this year, is the town’s collaboration with an independent festival-producer to share the booking of the Ulster County Fairgrounds for the Fourth of July weekend. The town had already arranged to hold the Independence Day celebration at the site on that Friday when Jake DiBari, organizer of the Tiny House and Green Living Freedom Fest, came along planning to hold that event at the fairgrounds on Saturday and Sunday. Joining forces seemed to be the solution, a mutually beneficial arrangement with the mini dwellings to be set up on the property by Friday providing an additional point of interest for the town event, and the town’s fireworks, live music and activities offering a festive kick-off to the tiny house and sustainability event.

The town will hold their free Independence Day celebration on Friday, June 30. The fairgrounds open at 5 p.m. with fireworks going off at dusk. Live music will continue after the display. The rain date is Saturday, July 1 at 6 p.m. The two-day Tiny House and Green Living Freedom Fest, which highlights tiny houses, sustainable living and green technologies, will be held at the site on Saturday, July 1 from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday, July 2 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.



Town of New Paltz Independence Day celebration

Volunteers from the New Paltz Youth Program will be on hand Friday, June 30 to assist with parking when the Ulster County Fairgrounds open at 5 p.m. to welcome attendees to the annual Town of New Paltz Independence Day celebration. Parking and admission are free. A number of bouncy houses and kids’ activities will keep the young ones busy until sundown brings the fireworks, with face painting and henna tattoos available. Food trucks offering a range of festival fare will be on hand, with perhaps more options than ever before at the event, as most will stay throughout the weekend for the Tiny House fest. Expect barbecue and French fries, fried pickles and fried Oreos, fried seafood, funnel cake and fried dough among the offerings.

Live music will be provided by three Hudson Valley-based groups this year: the youthful musicians of New Paltz Rock, the seven-piece acoustic band, Upstate Rubdown — whose three-part vocal harmonies are complemented by upright bass, mandolin, flute and alto and baritone saxes — and festival favorite Soul Purpose, purveyors of R&B, soul, blues, Motown, swing, New Orleans funk and jazz.

Carl Welden will once again emcee the program, with native New Paltz singer Esme Hyman returning to perform the National Anthem as in previous years. Fireworks begin after dusk; bring a chair or blanket to sit back and enjoy.

The cost to put on the event comes to nearly $10,000, with about $7,000 allotted for it in the town budget, which covers the cost of fireworks and rental of the fairgrounds, says Preston, whose job with the town includes coordinating the annual celebration. While the event is free to attend and open to everyone, cash donations to keep the tradition going each year will be gratefully accepted. ShopRite of New Paltz is the major commercial sponsor. “It’s amazing how they come through for us every year,” says Preston. “We could not do it without them.”

ShopRite staff will also be at the event raising money for veterans’ programs, selling water and snacks, fun festival items like glow-sticks and raffle tickets for a number of prizes donated by the store and their vendors (last year’s raffle prizes included a collection of 100 scratch-off lottery tickets). The New Paltz ShopRite is one in a collective of 34 stores that raise funds for veterans every year from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

The Independence Day celebration is also made possible with the assistance of New Paltz Police and the town fire department and rescue squad, which donate their time and services.

Town of New Paltz fireworks organizer Kathy Preston and Tiny House Freedom Festival organizer Jake DiBari.

Tiny House and Green Living Freedom Fest

The two-day Tiny House and Green Living Freedom Fest will be held Saturday, July 1 from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday, July 2 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. As its name suggests, the new-to-New Paltz festival will be an event that highlights both the tiny house lifestyle and sustainable living. Builders of tiny homes will offer tours of at least 15 small dwellings (attendees to the Independence Day celebration the evening prior can view the houses, but tours inside will not be offered until the Freedom Fest). The event offers artisan vendors, live music, alternative energy displays, a full program of speakers each day and sustainability workshops.

Single day admission costs $20 for adults (age 13 and older) and $7 for ages 9-12. Those age eight or younger get in free. A two-day pass for adults costs $40 at the gate or $35 with advance purchase online, which includes a chance to win an all-inclusive Mohonk Mountain House getaway for two and four free passes to Rail Explorers USA (the Catskills division of the company will open next year). Junior weekend passes to the Freedom Fest for ages 9-12 cost $10 with advance purchase. There are also camping packages available for those who wish to bring their own tiny house, tent or RV to stay the weekend; details are at

Purchasing tickets in advance also allows early sign-up for workshops, like the one on solar panel installation. Attendees to the Freedom Fest are welcome to bring lawn chairs, blankets and towels for sitting on, but no coolers, grills, pets, or outside food. Beer and alcohol will be available.

For people who are considering the move to a tiny home, the festival will offer plenty of information, inspiration and advice. Ten presentations on Saturday and nine on Sunday will address topics that include how to build a tiny home, tips for living in one — embracing minimalism is key — and dealing with codes and zoning when living small. (Each presenter speaks both days in different time slots, with an additional speaker on Saturday.)

A few of the talks will offer firsthand experiences shared by tiny-home enthusiasts who blog about their experiences living mobile lives on the road. There will also be re-use and salvage experts who will give their take on making the most of very little.

The barn at the fairgrounds will host several film screenings during the festival, of two different documentaries tackling sustainability topics: The ReUse Documentary and Minimalism: The Value of Time.

The Tiny House and Green Living Freedom Fest will be held rain or shine. More info is available at