Once upon a time — within living memory, for some of us who grew up in city neighborhoods — it didn’t really feel like summer without a block party. Families living on a particular stretch of street would get together, put some money in the kitty and organize a day and evening of communal fun that involved blocking off either end of that street to traffic. Kegs of beer, folding tables and chairs would be rented, perhaps even a tent. Someone would be dispatched over the New Jersey line to acquire fireworks. The dads would set up a long barbecue assembly line and the moms would make gigantic batches of pot luck. Garage bands would play; stickball matches and costume parades and talent shows and games of chance would be organized. Even the most reclusive of neighbors would come out to sit on the front porch and gossip until the lightning bugs came out. It was a true homegrown manifestation of community spirit, just for fun.
The nostalgic appeal of this all-American tradition is going to be resurrected in downtown Gardiner on Saturday, September 8. “It’s a nice old-fashioned way of having a community come together,” says Cindy Dates, who is currently very busy with the rest of the Gardiner Day Committee organizing this year’s event. Usually Gardiner Day takes place mostly within Majestic Park, but recent infrastructure issues have necessitated some creative thinking. “We started planning for the park, but earlier this year they tore down the Pavilion, where we had our food set up and got most of our electricity. It was unsafe,” Dates explains. “For Summer Rec they put up a tent, and they didn’t start construction on the new Pavilion until that was over.”
Unable to count on the new structure being ready for use in time for Gardiner Day, the committee decided to move most of the activities right onto Main Street. Majestic Park will still host some sports activities, including skateboarding demonstrations by the Majestic Sk8 Crew, disc golf games and a brand-new offering, tetherball. And the Gardiner Library will still organize its usual annual Book Sale and Book Walk. But downtown is where most of the action will be, with many of the hamlet’s businesses setting up outdoor tables right in front of their shops.
At the east end of the hamlet, the firehouse will have some trucks and equipment on display. The ballfield next door to Town Hall will be the site for food vendors and live entertainment, with a big tent and picnic tables set up. Music will be provided by bands from the New Paltz School of Rock. For the kids, there will be a petting zoo and pony rides, and free photo IDs will be available. The Ulster County Sheriff’s Office will perform water rescue demonstrations in its SCUBA tank, and police K-9 team demos will take place in the Dog Park behind Town Hall. “It’s a nice fenced-in area for them,” notes Dates.
At Station Square in the middle of the hamlet, Gardinerites and visitors alike will be able to find a farmers’ market, craft vendors and a tasting tent featuring local producers of spirits, wine, beer and cider. Being a state road — Route 44/55 — Main Street will not be closed to auto traffic, but volunteers from the Fire and Highway Departments will be on hand to assist pedestrians at crossings. A hayride wagon will provide transportation to and from the designated parking areas at Majestic Park and the Reformed Church, and all along the festival route for the footsore. But attendees will find that strolling through the hamlet is a big part of the fun, with the Gardiner Open Studio Tour’s artfully painted GOST Doors set up at intervals and plenty of other things to see and do along the way, from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Gardiner Day 2018 is being dedicated to the memory of Carol Ann Majestic Lohrman, a longtime committee member who died of cancer on August 10. The other organizers soldier on in spite of this heartfelt loss, but more volunteers are always welcome. Call Sugar at (917) 318-3912 if you’d like to help out with the event. Food vendors should call Jewell at (845) 255-9675, extension 107; craft, business and direct sales vendors can call Jessica at (845) 240-5762.
To learn more about Gardiner Day, visit www.facebook.com/events/172589083585254.