Despite the iffy weather in the wake of the remnants of Hurricane Ian, many families turned out on October 1 to enjoy the return of Gardiner Day after a two-year pandemic hiatus. All the activities this year – free to the community – took place in George Majestic Memorial Park. “Bring your boots!” the Gardiner Day Committee advised in advance on social media; but the warning was scarcely needed, since the rainfall early that morning proved minimal and the fields were quite walkable.
“It’s going really good!” said Committee volunteer Barbara Meszoras as she sold raffle tickets at the entry gate in the afternoon. “Earlier it was slow because of the rain, but now we’ve got an overfilled parking lot. And the trucks are running out of food, which is a good sign. The vendors up at the Pole Barn said they’re doing well, and we’re doing great on the 50/50. There should be a big winner.”
The main entertainment draws of the day were a magic show from illusionist Ryan Dutcher and basketball sleight-of-hand from Black Jack Ryan of the Harlem Wizards, showing off Gardiner Parks and Recreation’s freshly resurfaced basketball court. Up-and-coming local bands played live in the gazebo, organized by Julian Baker of JB’s House of Music. Take the Leap Dance Studio students and instructors gave demos of their fancy footwork in the Pavilion.
Out in the field, fire and rescue vehicles were parked for inspection by the littlest Gardinerites. “We do a touch-a-truck to let kids see our equipment,” said Gardiner Fire chief Matthew Goodnow. “Earlier we had a guy dressed up in gear, so they can see that we’re not so scary.”
Nearby, a bevy of small girls were enthusiastically climbing up and sliding down a big inflatable slide festooned with shapes of ice pops, sponsored by Walden Savings Bank. Another elaborate bouncy house, this one an obstacle course, was set up near the Pole Barn. That one’s sponsor, Ulster Savings Bank, invited passersby to spin a wheel and win some free swag: keychains, tote bags, ballpoint pens.
While food and crafts vendors had items for sale, the emphasis of Gardiner Day is always on free activities. Kids could do spin-art to take home at the Jellystone Park booth. Both Tipsy Turtle’s henna designs and face-painting from a group of New Paltz High School volunteers were offered gratis. (Crewmate characters from the computer game Among Us were this year’s hot design, according to the high schoolers.) Buttondown Balloons was cranking out balloon animals one after another. “There’s been a long line all day,” said one mom waiting patiently with her young charges.
Amongst all the fun things to do, there was also plenty of information being offered by civic, social service and community organizations. Adult visitors could inquire about how to become a foster parent and youths could find out about the TeenCentral website from KidsPeace Foster Care Agency. Repair Café touted its services with a Take-Apart Table for kids. The Gardiner Gazette surveyed residents about what they’d most like to see covered in future issues.
Local environmental causes generated ample hoopla: Climate Smart Gardiner challenged passersby to write their suggestions for ways to combat the global climate crisis on sticky notes to post on a big board. The Town of Gardiner’s Open Space Commission and Committee for Open Space, Farmland and Clean Water displayed blowups of sample maps from the Town’s Natural Resources Inventory. They also shared information about the proposed Community Preservation Fund and real estate transfer tax, urging Gardiner voters to support their creation in the referendum on Election Day.
To make Gardiner Day happen each autumn at no charge to attendees, dedicated volunteers work year-round to raise contributions through a variety of fun public events. To learn about more about joining the Gardiner Day Committee, e-mail email@example.com.