You might’ve missed it on account of a certain pandemic that was still raging one year ago, but in July of 2021, three local social service organizations — the New Paltz Youth Program, the Office for Community Wellness and the Ulster Prevention Council — put on a fun, completely free event intended to lift all our spirits during a challenging time. “Our office had really expanded a lot, and we wanted to find fun and creative ways to support the community, especially in COVID times,” recalls Phoenix Kawamoto, director of the Community Wellness program. “Last year we held it at the Field of Dreams. The space allowed people to be together, but still be distant.”
That first Community Picnic was a great success, launching Kawamoto and his colleague Jim Tinger of the Youth Program intend to be an ongoing annual series. “It was a chill afternoon for people, so we wanted it to continue,” Kawamoto says. So, get ready to enjoy the second annual New Paltz Community Picnic this Saturday, July 23 from 1 to 4 p.m. “This time we’ve moved to Hasbrouck Park, to remove transportation as a barrier.”
This event is all about family fun for all ages. There will be a barbecue, prerecorded “pop music from the ‘70s on up,” a bouncy house, an inflatable rainbow sprinkler, face-painting and craft tables. In addition to last year’s badminton, cornhole and Kan Jam – a Frisbee target game – this year’s selection of outdoor games has been expanded to include TowerBall, in which players must toss balls or Hacky Sacks through holes of various sizes in a four-sided tower.
What will Kawamoto be up to during the event? “I’ll be popping corn that day and handing it out,” he says. “New Paltz Health and Nutrition donated 50 pounds of organic non-GMO popcorn.” Bottled water will also be given out for free.
Attendees are advised to bring a lawn chair or blanket, as seating in Hasbrouck Park is limited. They’ll come in handy at the same the following Saturday evening as well, when support from the Ulster Prevention Council will make it possible to present the next in a series of three Movies in the Park. This month’s offering is an animated science fiction comedy about a dysfunctional family on a road trip who get caught up in a robot uprising, The Mitchells vs. the Machines. Directed by Mark Rianda with a stellar cast of voice actors, the film lost the 2021 Best Animated Feature Oscar to Encanto, but swept all its categories at the 49th Annie Awards, ASIFA-Hollywood’s annual recognition of excellence in animated cinema.
Projected onto a 20-foot inflatable screen, the showing of The Mitchells vs. the Machines will begin “as soon as it gets dark enough,” around 8:30 p.m. on July 30, according to Kawamoto. This event, like the Community Picnic, is also free to attend, and all are welcome. Insect repellent will be available, if you forget to bring your own.
As long as the funding holds out, the New Paltz community can expect to see more of these free offerings from the Youth Program, the Office for Community Wellness and the Ulster Prevention Council, intended to bolster mental health and well-being, reduce substance abuse, depression, self-harm and suicide. “That’s what makes my heart happy: seeing people out having a good time,” says Kawamoto.
In the event of heavy rain, the second annual New Paltz Community Picnic will be postponed until the following afternoon, Sunday, July 24 from 1 to 4 p.m. Hasbrouck Park is located at 15 Mohonk Avenue in the Village of New Paltz.
For more information, call Jim Tinger at (845) 325-2593 or Phoenix Kawamoto at (845) 256-5014, or visit www.npcommunitywellness.org/community-events.