New Paltz Library Fair returns Sept. 23

Jackie Swartzberg and Susan Scher (not pictured) have spent the past year sorting and pricing books for the annual
Elting Memorial Library Fair, which will take place this upcoming weekend Saturday, September 23. The book sale will continue on Sunday, September 24. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

It takes literally hundreds of volunteers to put on the annual Elting Memorial Library Fair, according to library trustee Chris Watkins, co-chair along with former trustee, Charlene Dye, of the organizing committee. Somewhere between 60 and 100 of those volunteers are SUNY New Paltz students, he says, many from the athletic teams, who take care of the physical set-up and break down of the fair. “Which is not easy work! This makes the fair a real community event, incorporating the college’s help with a local tradition, not to mention saving the backs of many grateful board members and other volunteers.”

The 61st annual Elting Memorial Library Fair will be held this Saturday, September 23 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The book sale portion of the event will continue the following day, Sunday, September 24 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission is free both days, but avid book hunters who want first crack at the merchandise on Saturday may pay $10 for early bird admission at 8 a.m.


The fair takes place on the corner of North Front and Church streets behind the library, its parking lot transformed for the day into a bustling street fair. Many of the activities are held under tents.

Children’s activities will include face-painting and the return of the “Kidz on the Go Activity Center,” a primary-colored portable playground of sorts with enough tubes and slides to keep kids busy.

The fair’s raffle is a major fundraiser for the library, bringing in nearly $10,000 last year. Many people don’t realize that the library’s public funding through the tax levy doesn’t pay for everything in its budget, says Watkins, and that fundraisers like this are critical to keeping programs running.

As of press time, there were 104 items donated by local businesses and individuals for the raffle — with more on the way — all ready to be claimed with a winning $1 raffle ticket. And the winner need not even be present for the all-day spinning of the drum from which the winners are drawn.

The top prize will be a two-night stay for two at Mohonk Mountain House. Other intriguing items on the list include a day pass for a family of four to Rocking Horse Ranch, a farm-to-table dinner for four at Main Course, four day-passes to Splashdown Beach, dinner for two (up to $100) at Garvan’s, a $100 gift card to The Village TeaRoom and Restaurant, framed artwork by Steve Jordan, dinner at Aroma Thyme restaurant followed by show tickets at Shadowland Theater, a mani-pedi at Shapers, golf for two at Apple Greens and a tour and tasting for four at Tuttletown Spirits.

Other items — and again, they’re still coming in — have been donated by A Tavola, Gadaleto’s Seafood Market and Restaurant, Handmade and More, Mountain Brauhaus, P&G’s restaurant, Rock & Snow, Krause’s Chocolates and The Cheese Plate. “Our local businesses are amazing; we cannot thank them enough for their generosity and support,” Watkins says. The raffle is run by library board trustees Alison Nash and Pat Backus along with “super-volunteer” Heather Bernabo.

There will be a silent auction, too, as well as the raffle. Items to be auctioned are still being determined as of press time, but previous fairs have had auction items that included an assortment of bottles of wine and a family membership to Mohonk Preserve.

A handful of craft vendors will also be on hand, and the food available for purchase will include hot dogs and hamburgers supplied by Jack’s Meats. Longtime business owner Said Abdul Joulani donates the hot dogs and offers the burgers at cost, says Watkins. In addition, former library board president Richard Heyl de Ortiz and his partner will offer their specialty: homemade sausage and pepper sandwiches. Cafe tables with umbrellas are set up for sit-down eating. Early birds to the fair will find some apple cider donuts donated by Wallkill View Farm, but emphasis on the early; they won’t last long.

The food booth has been coordinated by volunteer Gene Vidal for the last six years, who also, as a semi-retired career landscaper, has done a lot of landscaping for the library, gratis.

Live music will be performed all day. Singer-songwriter Jeff Pfeffer is organizing the talent line-up, which includes the Kurt Henry Band, a real crowd-pleaser at last year’s fair. Henry began his career half a century ago as a troubadour at Greenwich Village’s “Village Gaslight” and has led bands over the years opening for Procol Harum, The Byrds, Asleep at the Wheel and Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. His current band, in its second decade, is comprised of Eric Parker, Alan Groth and Cheryl Lambert in addition to himself.

Pfeffer will also perform at the fair. And as it happens, he’s married to Elting’s children’s librarian Bonnie Pfeffer, who organizes the jewelry sale at the Library Fair every year. “People who are into collecting jewelry always seem to be happy with the bargains they find there,” says Watkins. The jewelry is all donated, so unexpected finds are definitely a possibility, whether contemporary or vintage, and it’s going to run the gamut of styles.

The flea market tent will have lots of browsable items and a market for kids’ toys, too. This year’s donations so far include some vintage Fisher Price toys, gently used but put back in the original packaging. From the items received so far, “It looks to me to be one of the best flea markets we’ve had, in terms of quality goods,” Watkins says. “Look for a lot of bargains.”

And then, of course, what would a library fair be without books? The book sale will feature thousands of gently used books for sale, neatly categorized by genre for shopping ease. And while the fair lasts just the one day on Saturday, the book sale does continue the next day from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. People often express concern about what happens to the last of the books left unsold on Sunday, says Watkins, but rest assured, the books are picked up to be distributed in some fashion or recycled.

Proceeds from the fair benefit the operations of the library. “It really is just an amazing community event,” Watkins says. And fortunately, even with the advent of e-books, he notes, hard-copy books are still in demand.

For more information and a calendar of future events, visit