Center for Symbolic Studies hosts Beltane Festival in Tillson

At the opposite pole from Samhain/Halloween on the Pagan Wheel of the Year lies Beltane/May Day: the joyful festival that marks the vanquishing (for the current cycle) of Winter, the wedding of the female and male principles in Nature, the onset of times of warmth and light and plenty. For 28 years now, the Center for Symbolic Studies (CSS) has marked the occasion with a colorful outdoor celebration on the Saturday before May 1.

The setting for the annual CSS Beltane Festival is called Stone Mountain Farm, a gorgeous spread at the foot of the Shawangunk cliffs in Tillson, halfway between New Paltz and Rosendale. There’s a huge open field perfect for dancing horses and processions of mummers, a ritual stone circle and a maypole and an outdoor stage where the Vanaver Caravan conducts the elaborate pageant featuring world musicians, young dancers and giant puppets that’s the cornerstone of each year’s Festival. 

The theme for this year’s event is “Phoenix Rising.” If you’re a neophyte, here are a few important things to know: 1) It’s a kid-friendly, alcohol- and drug-free event. 2) Onsite parking is very limited; plan to carpool, leave your vehicle offsite and take the free shuttle or arrive on foot or by bicycle – Stone Mountain Farm is located right off the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail. 3) The after-dark fire circle/song swap that closes the Festival, formerly open to outside revelers, is now restricted to CCS volunteers only. 4) Festive dress is not mandatory, but may significantly enhance your sense of immersive pleasure.


The 28th annual CSS Beltane Festival Renaissance & Craft Faire takes place from noon until 7 p.m. this Saturday, April 28 (rain date: Sunday, April 29), with live music starting at 1 p.m. The Procession and May Pageant get underway at 4 p.m. Admission costs $15 for adults, $5 for seniors and children under 10. There will be a $15 charge for parking at Stone Mountain Farm. (Parking and admission are free with the purchase of a $35 yearly CSS membership.) To purchase tickets in advance, visit Stone Mountain Farm is located at the western terminus of River Road Extension, off Springtown Road in Tillson.