What defines a rural mountain town that holds no discernable center…a town like Olive, located to the west of Woodstock and Hurley, Marbletown and Rochester, but east of the central Catskills?
Olive Day, which takes place 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, September 8, in Davis Park, just off Route 28A at Watson Hollow Road, in West Shokan, started off as a political party fundraiser. But as the rest of the nation has turned more partisan, Olive Day’s become increasingly bipartisan, ecumenical almost, in its self-consciously old-style celebration of country living and lifestyles, and accompanying heartfelt display of a community’s love for itself and its uniqueness.
Considered one of the six “Signature Events” sponsored by the Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway municipalities, which the town joined in recent years after much discussion, Olive Day is defined as being all about the effort to “bring together music, activities and vendors to share a day that is all about Olive.”
Things kick off at 9 a.m. with registration for the annual Olive Day 5K Jason-Kent Reeves Memorial Run, which actually kicks off at 10 a.m., which is also when the town’s annual frog jumping contest takes place. The Town of Olive Police Department will offer a Bike Safety Rodeo at 11a.m. There’s Line Dancing with the Olive Country Dancers from noon until 1 p.m., music by the Spillway Band from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m., the Olive Ladies Auxiliary Penny Social selling tickets throughout the day with calling at 3 p.m., and finally music with The Pontiacs from 3:30 p.m. until 6 p.m.
Throughout the day there’s loads of food, and vendors’ offerings, from coffee and danish offered up by the Olive Fire Department in the morning to burgers and hot dogs and barbecue from Olive Democrats and other entities all the way to the end of the day. Plus a beer tent, of course.
Fun and games include Bossie Bingo, in which bets get placed on a cow’s “chip” droppings; an old-style Egg Toss contest, Tug of Wars for young and old, and a Sack Race. Vendors range from jewelry to medieval garb, the Olive First Aid outfit offers blood pressure testing, plus there’s an Olive Day Classic Car Show, with voting for audience favorites.
What makes the day special is the warmth everyone has for each other, and anyone who attends, even when you’d think there’d be feuding fights between neighbors with land-use neighbors, newcomers and old pioneer families, political sorts, and townsfolk and town officials. Just not on Olive Day, or in Olive generally, where the zoning and other local political battles tend to sound fierce, but settle quietly.
Remember, this is where a majority of the scenic Ashokan Reservoir resides, with its deep history of displacement; as well as where the Onteora School District’s Middle and High schools sit. It’s home to the rising rail trail into the mountains and some of the best trout fishing in America. Great artists live in Olive, working in mediums that range from paint to fine chocolates. The Ashokan Center’s here. Jimi Hendrix once called the community home.
Head on out Saturday to Olive Day, in Davis Park off Watson Hollow Road, just off Route 28A in West Shokan. It’s a grand time even when it rains, because it’s all about people getting together to celebrate getting together.