It was Mothers’ Day, in the belly of springtime, with the mighty Hudson River rolling underfoot at the Walkway over the Hudson State Historic Park, where thousands of people had flocked to enjoy a walk and a taste of the Hudson Valley good life. The Mayfest Essential Farmers’ and Makers’ Market that took place this past weekend along the Hudson Valley Rail Trail and the western approach to the Walkway offered more than 80 curated vendors who provided a rich and dazzling selection of some of the Hudson Valley’s finest producers, including farms, distilleries, breweries, wineries, musicians, artisans and pro-community organizations.
There were long lines wrapped around the Reggae Catering Jamaican food truck that offered Caribbean cultural delights like jerk chicken and beef patties. Corey’s Sugar Shack, located in Highland, was handing out samplings of all its locally sourced syrup and almost selling out its unique line of Bourbon Maple Syrup. “We pour our maple syrup into empty barrels of whiskey and let them sit for three months,” Debbie Corey explained. “That allows them to extract the bourbon flavor from the wood and provides that bite to the syrup.”
There was also peppermint-infused maple syrup, and of course, maple sugar candy that kids couldn’t get enough of. “It’s been a fantastic weekend,” said Corey. “We’ve had customers that have come from New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and the Bronx and Manhattan. It’s been a great mix of people.”
There were many vendors promoting different products and services that focused on health and wellness, which we all know have been stretched thin during the pandemic. One of these was Cecelia Waterman-Santiago, owner of Aveli Wellness of Nyack, whose very presence and voice have a calming effect. Her various wellness wares included soy candles made with specific essential oils and crystals and various essential oil sprays and chakra-enhancers, like one for the “root chakra” that blends red jasper, frankincense, ginger and sandalwood. “We have seven chakras, and these blends help to make sure that they’re in balance. They’re our energy points.” Our root chakra helps us to feel grounded, and with so much being off-kilter this past year, that’s an area where many people do not feel like their feet are planted firmly. Here is one for creativity and power and wisdom, and Waterman-Santiago patiently and passionately describes how oils from various plants help to restore our energy system and harness our power.
For a woman who was once pre-med in Brooklyn and then went on to a career in finance, she has been delighted finally to come back to her roots as someone who is in love with homeopathic practices and wellness, yoga, meditation and the healing arts. “It’s been a wonderful weekend, even when it rained, I think people were just happy to be outside and walking and enjoying one another. This year has encouraged many people to go towards homeopathic remedies and preventive practices.” She makes all of her own products, which can be found at www.aveliwellness.com.
New Paltz’s teenage American Idol performer, Laila Mach, was on hand to sing some of the ballads that landed her as a major contestant on the hit ABC live singing competition show that is followed by millions of viewers. Although Mach was knocked out after more than three rounds, she’s ready to get back in the ring. “This is my first time performing since I’ve been back” from the American Idol studios in Hollywood, said Mach, who was signing autographs and drawing in audiences with her emotional, raw and velvety voice. “It’s cool to be performing again. A lot of people didn’t know who I was, but now they recognize me from Idol which is just fun.”
Mach was excited to sing her latest song, “Official Lover,” which just dropped this weekend and can be found on Apple Music or Spotify. She, along with one of her Idol buddies who is flying in, will also be performing at the Spring Market in Highland this coming weekend on May 15.
Two women from an alpaca farm, Lilymoore Farms in Pleasant Valley, were on hand to display their wide array of alpaca-based artisan yarn and mittens, hats and socks and all kinds of warm and fuzzy accessories. “They’re 30 percent warmer than wool and hypoallergenic,” explained one of the farm-owners. “We have alpacas that you can walk, go on a trek with or just visit our 1840s farm and shop local products made by wonderful artisans.” To shop or visit or learn more, go to www.lilymoorefarm.com.
The HVRT and Walkway were filled with walkers, cyclists, strollers and of course, dogs. There was no shortage of dog-friendly vendors, including several rescue organizations like the Wayward Ranch Animal Sanctuary located in Kerhonkson. Its motto is “Root for the Underdog.”
Indeed, the Sanctuary hosts goats, horses, dogs and pigs that were either abandoned or have different disabilities and are in need of adoption or a place to live out their life with love and care. They have permanent residences and adoptable animals, plus various programs in which animal-lovers can participate, whether it’s fundraising, sponsoring the monthly care of a specific animal or adopting one. “We don’t do the cute litter of bred puppies,” said their one board member, Miri Dainson, who was there with Argo, a 14-year-old sweetheart of a dog who is deaf. “We do the tough stuff. We do hospice and rehabilitation and behavioral modification for some difficult cases. We do it with a holistic approach and a commitment to help animals thrive rather than deteriorate as they wait for their ‘forever homes.’” To learn more about this amazing place, go to www.waywardranch.org.
Because of the success of these type of events that really showcase what makes Hudson Valley so unique and their products so delicious, and the location of it on a major pedestrian and cycling thoroughfare like the HVRT and the historic Walkway over the Hudson, New York State senator Michelle Hinchey (SD-46) recently announced that she had secured $120,000 to support the Friends of the Walkway not-for-profit organization’s Farm-to-Market Initiative.
The state funding will be used to renovate the Friends’ Pavilion in Highland so that it can provide exposure and retail space for small businesses in the Hudson Valley to showcase and sell locally grown food, drink, produce, spirits and other New York-made products. With this new funding, Friends of the Walkway will also have the ability to hire a Farm-to-Market project manager who will work in partnership with Taste NY and other stakeholders to build collaborations with local producers and vendor networks to increase their presence on the Walkway and enhance popular events like Mayfest and Walktoberfest.
“My office has a shared mission with the Walkway over the Hudson, and that is to bolster our local economies, raise small business profiles and make people from across our region familiar with the incredible selection of local products the Hudson Valley has to offer,” said Senator Hinchey. “I’m proud to have delivered on behalf of this important cultural institution and to have secured state budget funding to grow the organization’s Farm-to-Market Initiative. The Walkway is an economic engine for our region and the Farm-to-Market expansion a prime
opportunity to bring tourism dollars into our communities while fostering the success of our Hudson Valley agribusinesses. As chair of the Senate Agriculture and Food Committee, I will always look for opportunities to help our agribusinesses get more of their products to market.”
“We are pleased to partner with Senator Hinchey to bring this vital facility to Walkway over the Hudson State Historic Park,” said John Storyk, chair of Friends of the Walkway. “The upgraded and expanded Friends’ Pavilion will not only better serve our more than 150 volunteer ambassadors that are the real spirit of the Walkway, but will also allow us to increase access to Hudson Valley and New York State-made products for the thousands of people that visit our park every day.”
“Visiting Walkway over the Hudson is a quintessential New York experience,” said Elizabeth Waldstein, executive director of Friends of the Walkway. “Whether visitors come from down the street or across the globe, we want them to have access to the unique products that make the Hudson Valley so special. This funding from Senator Hinchey will help us expand our capacity to do so.”
Connecting the City of Poughkeepsie and the hamlet of Highland, Walkway over the Hudson State Historic Park is a renowned tourism and recreation destination visited by 600,000 people each year. Standing 212 feet above the river’s surface and more than 6,700 feet (1.28 miles) long, the Walkway is the longest elevated pedestrian bridge in the world. The park provides unique access to the Hudson River’s landscape for all to enjoy, free of cost.