All year long, the dedicated volunteers of the Gardiner Day Committee are busy organizing fundraising events — a St. Patrick’s Day dinner, an Easter Plant Sale, paint-and-sip evenings, blood drives — in order to make sure that their main event can go forward the weekend after Labor Day, without any entry fees. “A lot of work goes into it,” says committee member Cindy Dates. “We try to keep it free, so families can afford to come out and enjoy the day.”
That’s right: Although you’ll probably want to bring some cash along to sample the wares of the food and craft vendors on hand in Majestic Park on Saturday, September 9, “All the entertainment and activities are free,” Dates says. That even goes for the kids’ treats like pony rides, face-painting and henna tattoos. And although this annual event is very much a celebration of the Gardiner community, you don’t need to be a local resident to attend and enjoy.
The 28th iteration of Gardiner Day goes on, rain or shine, from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. There will be some new features this year, in addition to the traditional family favorites. Notably, attendees of all ages will be invited to participate in the Name the Topiary Creature contest, whose winning entry will thenceforth become the “official” name of the green dragon sculpted from shrubbery by Keith Buesing at Ireland Corners. “We got his permission,” notes Dates. “We thought it’d be fun to give it a name.” The winner of the contest will receive a $50 gift card.
Also new this year will be a voluntary food drive, in which attendees will be asked to bring along a nonperishable food item to add to the fall and winter stockpile of the Helping Hands Food Bank sponsored by the St. Charles Borromeo Church on Route 44/55 in Gardiner. A farmers’ market spotlighting local CSAs will be a new feature of the Country Living Tent, where visitors can also see a basketweaver and a knitter demonstrating their crafty skills. The Business Tent sponsored by the Southern Ulster Chamber of Commerce and the Rotary Club will be back as well, sharing info about local businesses (and undoubtedly handing out plenty of free company-logo-bedecked swag).
A longtime draw at Gardiner Day, caricaturist Steve Gladstone, “hasn’t been here in a couple of years; he’s coming back,” Dates reports. Goodnow Family Farm, which occupies the site that was formerly home to Widmark Farms’ honey source and performing bears, will be keeping the family-friendly entertainment abuzz with a petting zoo, pony rides and hayrides around the park. Live entertainment will include music from New Paltz Rock; a performance by students at Take the Leap Dance Studio; martial arts demonstrations by Fighting Spirit and the New Paltz Karate Academy; and a yoga demo by Stone Wave Yoga.
Community safety is an ongoing theme of Gardiner Day. The Ulster County Sheriff’s Department will be setting up a big water tank for SCUBA rescue demonstrations. New York State Police K9 and the Town of Poughkeepsie Police K9 will be showing off their first-ever pit bull trained for K-9 operations. Adonai Lodge will conduct free ID registration for children.
Readers will enjoy the return of Marie Zapf’s interactive Book Walk, in which pages from a storybook will be blown up and mounted on panels alongside a path that winds through the park. Read your way to the end of the story, and you’ll find the Gardiner Library table, where each visitor can claim and take home a free donated book.
More athletically minded? Watch epic skateboarding moves in the Skate Park, courtesy of Sacred in New Paltz. Check out Majestic Park’s popular Disc Golf course, where a local club will be conducting a demonstration of the sport. “Then you could play the course,” suggests Dates. Or get your pitching arm warmed up and head over to the dunk tank, where you might get a chance to give your most or least favorite Gardiner public official a good soaking.
That will be your only opportunity for politicking, though; Dates says that there will be signs up warning “No Soliciting or Campaigning.” “We like to keep it a day just for fun, and not to get involved in politics.” Leave your pets home as well; only registered service dogs will be admitted to the site on Gardiner Day.
Majestic Memorial Park is located at 40 Murphy Lane, just off Farmers’ Turnpike, south of Main Street (Route 44/55) in the Gardiner hamlet. On-site parking is available, and cyclists can take the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail.