Children growing up these days don’t remember a time when visiting a library meant being shushed for talking too loudly. Libraries today are more community center than the staid old repositories of books they used to be. The activities at the annual Elting Library Fair last Saturday, September 21, seemed to reflect the multifaceted role libraries play in our lives today, with its emphasis not only on books but on the arts, children’s programs, community camaraderie and opportunities for civic involvement.
The used-book sale was a major part of the event, of course (libraries haven’t changed that much, thankfully). Browsers filled the book tent, adding to the stacks of volumes they carried while working their way up and down the makeshift aisles, where more than 10,000 gently used volumes had been neatly organized by category.
Library trustees Ron Fields and June Wheeler were handling the cashbox, doing their part to help out at the library’s biggest fundraiser of the year. “People were lined up down the street by 7:30 a.m. for the early bird admission to the book sale!” reported Wheeler. She marveled at the quality of the books coming through their checkout line. Fields noting seeing a number of $50 hardcovers going home with fairgoers for just toe bucks apiece.
The book sale would continue on Sunday. Books left unsold were donated to a company that distributes them to literacy programs in other countries.
Over at the table staffed by representatives of The League of Women Voters, Carole Ford did her best to make sure people know that for the first time ever New York State residents may vote before Election Day. Seven different sites across Ulster County will allow voters to cast a ballot during early voting from Saturday, October 26 through Sunday, November 3. That’ll increase the odds that everyone will have a chance to get to the polls.
Voters may visit any of the seven sites. The voting location in New Paltz will be at Redeemer Lutheran Church on Route 32 S. and in Highland at the American Legion Hall at 84 Grand Street. For more information, visit www.VoteUlster.com.
The fair’s big raffle brings in about a third of the day’s revenues. Volunteer Rosalyn Cherry and her colleagues in the raffle tent assisted people with purchasing their tickets, even offering to fill in all the blank ones for them, a helpful service for people like the busy mom who had her hands full with her little ones. Tickets were sold at a cost of $1 each, 12 for $10 or 24 for $20.
More than 100 local businesses donated items to be awarded that included a number of gift certificates for local shops and restaurants, entertainment packages, personal care and health and fitness experiences. The grand prize in the raffle was a mid-week, two-night stay for two at Mohonk Mountain House.
The raffle tent also displayed ten items donated for the silent auction. Hudson Valley Goldsmith contributed a pair of handmade sterling silver and titanium earrings, New Paltz Eye Care donated a pricey pair of designer sunglasses, and library trustee Ron Fields auctioned off four swing dance lessons to a lucky winner who will visit the library for four one-hour sessions.
This year’s auction offerings also included the opportunity to get trivia advice at lunch with New Paltz resident and Jeopardy champion, Francois Barcomb. The prize included a $50 gift certificate to Garvan’s gastropub.
Many visitors to the fair were longtime, repeat attendees. Others, like Sage Aviles, a freshman at SUNY New Paltz who’s doing a double major in linguistics and Latin-American studies, were newcomers. She came to check out the fair and went home with baking supplies for her new home on campus, two books and a stuffed animal for her little brother.
Kids were entertained for hours, with face-painting, their own book and toy tent, and craft activities that included pumpkin-painting and printmaking. The Kidz on the Go playscape was back this year, with parents paying $3 a turn for their kids to climb its steps and enter the portal to rock climbing, mesh ball pools, foam forests, web crawls and a ten-foot slide. The lollypop game at 25 cents a chance also made a return visit to the fair.
While the kids were occupied, their parents could check out the items donated by local residents, and a large flea market offered many finds with a past. The plant sale, run by the New Paltz Garden Club, featured colorful mums donated by Wallkill View Farms and clumps of iris rhizomes for just a dollar, ready to transplant to one’s own yard from the garden of club member Kathy Rivera.
Saturday also included live entertainment, food and drink concessions, a massage therapist, community organization tables and a few craft vendors.
With all the fairs and festivals that take place every year in the Hudson Valley region, it’s easy to develop a case of “festival fatigue.” But there’s something about the annual Elting Library Fair in New Paltz that feels special. Maybe it’s all of those people strolling the fair who seem to know one another. Or maybe it’s the fact that the fair is not commercial, but rather something put on by local people who value their library and attended by people who feel the same.
It takes literally hundreds of volunteers to set the fair up, break it down afterward, and do everything in between. Ultimately, though, fairgoers and volunteers alike can feel good at the end of the day knowing their purchases and time have gone toward supporting a worthy institution: the local library.