As of this writing, the weather forecast for Labor Day weekend in the mid-Hudson looks fantastic: partly cloudy, with highs in the upper 70s. That must come as a great relief to all involved with the Woodstock-New Paltz Art & Crafts Fair, which was forced to go on COVID hiatus for all of 2020 and faced chilly, windy, rainy conditions on Memorial Day weekend 2021. Complicating matters back in May was the fact that the Ulster County Fairgrounds were being used as a major vaccination site, so the Crafts Fair had to set up at the Field of Dreams sports park on the other side of Libertyville Road. It can’t have been quite the joyous comeback that the Quail Hollow folks envisioned.
Adverse conditions have afflicted the fair in years past, yet it has carried on undaunted since 1981, and is now firmly ensconced in the calendar of must-do activities in our region, practically defining the beginning and end of the summer tourism season. When the weather gods are smiling, as many as 10,000 shoppers show up to admire and purchase the wares of some 200 carefully curated exhibitors. Categories of handcrafted items on offer include ceramics, fiber, fine art, glass, healing arts, jewelry, leather, metal, mixed media, musical arts, photography, publishing and wood. The fair is staged in two huge vendor tents and two long rows of outdoor craft booths, plus separate tents for furniture, architectural crafts, local wines, beers, ciders and spirits, specialty foods and healthcare products, crafts supplies and live demonstrations.
Now the Woodstock-New Paltz Art & Crafts Fair is back at last, in its accustomed home. Many of the makers are just emerging from a long pandemic hiatus and eager to present their work, safely and in person. It’ll be fascinating to see what they’ve been up to, with all that time on their hands.
“The real beauty of these festivals is the interaction between the visitors and the exhibitors: getting to see the story and learn the history of the object and engage with the maker of that item,” says Ola Rubinstein, director of Quail Hollow Events and a second-generation member of the market’s founding family. To make that level of interaction safe, this event will follow all CDC and NYS-DOH guidelines for fairs and festivals. All visitors are “strongly encouraged” to wear masks indoors and wherever social distancing cannot be maintained; if unvaccinated, face coverings are required.
Live demonstrations by the artisans are always an attraction at this fair. Hang around and watch Adirondack furniture techniques, Mexican rug-making, silk painting, fiber spinning, Chinese brush painting, weaving of placemats and rugs, batik wall hangings, oil and acrylic painting, stained glass, lathe-turning of bowls and exotic hardwood pens or chip-carved jewelry boxes. Each fair spotlights an artist of particular note, and this weekend it will be Woodstocker Alan Siegel, who makes chairs – but not just any chairs. These are high-concept sculptures in wood and metal that you can sit on. Siegel’s creations have been exhibited extensively nationally and internationally, and collected by such prestigious institutions as the Whitney Museum of American Art. You can see examples of his work at www.alansiegelworks.com/alansiegelworks/chairs/chairs.html.
Another reason to make a full day’s outing of your visit to the Woodstock-New Paltz Art & Crafts Fair is the high-quality, locally sourced live entertainment. The performers for Labor Day weekend will be, on Saturday, Erik’s Reptile Adventure at noon, Dorraine Scofield at 1:30 p.m. and the Dylan Doyle Band at 3 p.m. Sunday’s acts will be Peppy and the Blue Sharks at noon, Dempsey/Nelson Way at 1:30 and the Phantoms at 3. On Monday, Labor Day, All-She-Wrote featuring Larry Packer goes on at noon and Elly Wininger at 1:30.
Fair food is of unusually high quality, all prepared on-premises. Bringing the kids? There’s a hands-on crafts tent where you can leave them, safely supervised and busy, while you shop. And they get in free.
For grownups, admission to the Woodstock-New Paltz Art & Crafts Fair costs $10, $9 for seniors (65+); but if you purchase your tickets online at www.quailhollow.com (where you can also peruse the full list of exhibitors) prior to September 4, you can get a dollar discount for the day or a three-day pass for $13. Fair hours are from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, September 4 and 5, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Labor Day, September 6.
The Ulster County Fairgrounds are located at 249 Libertyville Road in New Paltz. Parking is free and ample, affording the bonus of a stunning view of the Shawangunk Ridge. Pro tip: Approach the site northbound from Gardiner if you really want to avoid the traffic that’s probably backed up on Route 299 all the way through New Paltz to Thruway Exit 18 on account of the Wallkill River crossing. Don’t forget to bring your reusable shopping bags!