“We sure are having a good time!” said Gardiner Day volunteer Carol O’Byrne as she patiently guided little hands making sand-art sculptures in the Children’s Tent set up next to Town Hall on Saturday. It was a cloudy afternoon with a welcome bit of chill in the air: good weather, as Gardiner Day goes, with the celebrations having been canceled by tropical storms in some years past. The youngsters at the crafts table were intent on their tasks, carefully spooning fine sand of various colors through small funnels into clear plastic containers to make layered souvenirs of the annual festival.
Put on by a dedicated committee who raise most of their funding at a variety of events throughout the year, Gardiner Day is conceived as a way of giving back to the community. With the exception of food and crafts that are for sale, every activity is free — even the pony rides, face-painting and henna tattoos. It’s a conspicuously family-friendly event, with plenty of small children swarming hither and thither, whether it’s to make a craft to take home, pet the goats in the petting zoo, watch the county sheriff’s SCUBA team demonstrate a water rescue or eat some sugar-dusted fried dough from the New Hurley Reformed Church’s booth while listening to teenaged musicians from the New Paltz School of Rock belt out Motown hits.
The epicenter of the kids’ activities, as well as the food vendors, was located in the ballfield on the east side of Town Hall. Organizers had been nervous about the change of venue necessitated by the demolition of the pavilion at Majestic Park, but turnout seemed good on Saturday, despite being strung out all through the Gardiner hamlet in a “block party” configuration. Downtown businesses used the occasion to set up tables in front of their shops: You could assemble your own bud vase of carnations and greenery at Meadowscent Flowers or get a complimentary neck massage in the tent by Yoga Wellness Bodywork. “Cold brew coffee and kombucha here!” was chalked on the sidewalk by the urns set up in front of the Village Market, while across the street at Gardiner Liquid Mercantile, artist-decorated skateboard decks were on exhibit, and being auctioned off to raise funds for the Majestic Sk8 Crew.
Strolling residents and visitors got an eyeful of art just walking up the street, lined with gaily painted “GOST Doors” from the Gardiner Open Studio Tour project. More festivities were concentrated at Station Square, where craft vendors had set up their booths. Eager teens raising funds for the Maya Gold Foundation’s next trip to the Himalayas were selling tee-shirts and Nepalese handmade journals. The mascot of Dawes Septic in Modena — a person in a smiling poop-emoji costume — mingled with the crowd, and kids could win prizes by fishing floating rubber poops and ducks out of a pond at the Dawes booth. But the offerings at the western end of the block party mostly drew an older crowd, as a band called Catbox performed heavy metal numbers across from booths selling local craft beer and wines.
For the footsore, a hayride wagon offered rides up and down the length of the festival, between the parking lot at the Reformed Church at one end and the Firehouse at the other. There were activities off Main Street as well, including the Gardiner Library’s annual Book Walk and Book Sale, and skateboard demos and disc golf in Majestic Park. The center of the action may have shifted, but it wasn’t difficult to find the fun at Gardiner Day 2018.