Gardiner Day unites neighbors to paint colorful mural at Majestic Park

Last Saturday at Gardiner Day in Majestic Park, renowned graffiti artist Lady Pink (center bottom) had a troupe of assistants helping to execute her handball court murals. Pictured are: Amanda Caso Sobon, Olivia Urrico, Roger Smith, Isabel Thompson, Matt O’Connor, Izzy Wolgamuth, Ella Pons and Lady Pink. (Photo by Lauren Thomas)

A low, threatening sky might’ve made some people nervous as the 30th annual Gardiner Day dawned last Saturday; but rain never materialized, and even the skydivers were on hand to provide a moving backdrop as locals and visitors alike congregated at various locations in the hamlet to enjoy the annual festivities. There was live music to be heard everywhere you went: three hours of well-known rock guitarist Dylan Doyle on the bandstand at Town Hall, mellower strains from singer/songwriters Matt Booth and Ethan Levy at Station Square and three bands organized by New Paltz Rock in the Gazebo at Majestic Park: Offbeat, Crushed Velvet and Blue Plate Special. Listeners found comfy, biodegradable seating on semicircles of haybales supplied for the occasion by Tantillo Landscaping.

While there was plenty to hear, see, do and eat at all three main locations — not to mention a book sale at the Gardiner Library and sidewalk pop-up shops in front of various Main Street businesses — the big news of this year’s event was the return of Majestic Park as a major scene of the action. To celebrate, iconic graffiti artist Lady Pink oversaw a collaborative community painting party at the handball court. Atop scaffolding, a couple of her teenaged apprentices took care of decorating the upper half of the backstop wall, but the part of the mural that could be reached from the ground was mostly painted by local children. Each was assigned a color and directed to fill in the various shapes that corresponded to it in the artist’s design scheme.

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“I worked on that green grass over there, and those lines over there,” said six-year-old Milo Kunz of New Paltz. “It was a little smudgy, so I painted over it.” Soccer is Milo’s primary hobby, but his eight-year-old sister Maple is all about doing art. “When we were making nametags in school, I made the art teacher do mine in 3-D,” Maple said. “I took pictures of my brother doing BMX and sketched him.” Her contributions to the mural: “That red barn, the red tractor and the red car. I felt good.”

Farynn Acquaviva, 6, of New Paltz was also wielding red paint. Working on a red tree made her “happy,” she said. Farynn’s brother Luca, 8, didn’t mind having some empty air underneath him as he climbed up a ladder to work on painting some swirly plant fronds in the upper left-hand corner of the mural. “I took rock climbing lessons, so I know how that feels,” he said. “I was really focused on painting.” Farynn added that his ambition is to be an illustrator: “I want to make books.”

The mural, simply titled Gardiner, depicts many of the town’s assets, from farm fields, wildlife and the Shawangunk cliffs to skydivers and skateboarders. “Ruthless Ruthie Rainbow” Weinmann of the Majestic Sk8 Crü, described affectionately by Lady Pink as a “little activist” promoting skateboarding clubs for girls, is a featured character in the design. At the top of the painting, an owl, intended by the artist as homage to the indigenous people of the land now known as Gardiner, extends its wings as if conferring a blessing upon all that’s going on below.

“This side is permanent. The other side will be repainted every year,” as a group project for anyone who wants to volunteer, Lady Pink explained. “I do a lot of community murals. I work a lot with kids — mostly teenagers. Kids love to paint big.” She gave a shout-out to the “two masterminds behind this,” Josh Platt and Andy Lewis of the Town of Gardiner Parks and Recreation Committee.

Elsewhere at Majestic Park, people were having lots of different kinds of fun. In addition to the lively music, Take the Leap Dance, Fighting Spirit and New Paltz Karate and Stone Wave Yoga all conducted live demos at the basketball court, while the Sk8 Crü showed off their moves at the skate park. The newly rebuilt Pavilion sheltered a variety of food vendors, one of them a first-timer at this event: Hollow Pond Sheep Farm. Brent Wasser, who raises Dorset sheep for meat and East Frisian sheep for milk on the property on Route 44/55 known as Seven Meadows Farm, was offering lamb hot dogs on pretzel rolls. “Turnout was great. It’s really good to be part of Gardiner Day.”

Another first-time vendor at this year’s event came all the way from Cortlandt Manor: Jennifer Larrabee, whose company, Jeneric Bags, sells a wide variety of quilted items. “I make everything myself,” Larrabee said. Popular items with the Gardiner Day crowd at Station Square, where the craft vendors were concentrated, included sets of two matching potholders and catnip-stuffed cat toys in the shape of carrots. Larrabee donates $1 to a cat rescue center in Fishkill for each one that she sells, she said.

Nearby, a couple of newer Gardiner-based businesses, Doc Schwarz Wine Jelly and Peck’s Pickled Peppers, were hawking their gourmet wares while Booth and Levy played and sang. There were kids’ books and Tupperware, handmade soaps and solar panels, tee-shirts and jewelry. Boy Scout Troop 172 was having a bake sale; New Paltz Recycling coordinator Laura Petit was selling handy aerated counter-sized compost pails; and, under the Fiber Frolics Boutique tent, an enormous and handsome black-and-white angora rabbit lounged amidst the yarn displays.

Live animals were a big draw at the Country Living Tent, set up alongside Town Hall. Rabbits, chinchillas and baby goats could be found in the little petting zoo, while a beekeeper from Maybrook Honey displayed a tray from glassed-in tray from a hive, abuzz with honeybees. K-9 four-footed law enforcement “officers” were put through their paces. Kids jumped about in a bouncy castle sponsored by Dawes Septic, which also had its Poop Emoji Man mascot wandering around. The Tipsy Turtle gave out free henna tattoos, and teen ambassadors from the Maya Gold Foundation did face-painting.

As always, everything except the food and crafts products were free to all, thanks to the grassroots fundraising work done year-round by the Gardiner Day Committee. As long as the volunteers keep on volunteering, look for this “Family, Friends & Fun” event to return to the Gardiner hamlet one more time next September. To learn more about the event, visit www.facebook.com/gardiner-day-new-york-162022735751.

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