Last Friday, the folks at the Elting Memorial Library in New Paltz took a look at the alarming weather reports forecasting that inland remnants of Hurricane Ian were on track to make October 1 a washout in the Hudson Valley. So, they posted on social media the dispiriting news that the live entertainment scheduled for the 65th annual Library Fair was being canceled. The main event – book sales under two enormous tents – always goes on rain or shine, but there would be no musical ambiance.
But when Saturday dawned, a funny thing happened: There wasn’t actually much rain, and it was mostly over by around 7 a.m. when the volunteers were gathering on the Library grounds to finish setting up. And so, the live music went on as well, despite the “official” cancellation.
“The musicians didn’t get the memo and showed up anyway, so it was a real Fair!” said Library volunteer Anne Conger Simons with glee as the event was getting ready to wrap up that afternoon. Vickie Russell, the last scheduled performer, was singing Joni Mitchell’s classic environmental anthem “Big Yellow Taxi” to an appreciative audience in the background. “In terms of our goals of making money and having a community event, we’ve done both,” Conger Simons elaborated. “We did way better than we predicted 24 hours ago. People just showed up, saying, ‘What weather? What hurricane?’”
Richard Heyl de Ortiz, who served more than a decade on the Elting Library Board of Directors, including some years as chair, and who has helped organize scores of these fundraising events, agreed that this year’s Fair went off “better than expected.” It was too soon to assess how many of the 10,000+ books, CDs, DVDs and audiobooks on sale had found new homes, he said, or how much the Library had added to its coffers. But even as closing time drew near for Day One of the event, Library volunteers were kept busy rearranging the books on the long tables and refreshing the empty spaces left by volumes that had been sold. The book sale component of the Library Fair would continue on Sunday.
While the books for sale weren’t organized the way a fastidious old-school librarian might wish – alphabetically by author, in clusters dictated by the Dewey Decimal System – there was still method to the madness. Aisles and table sections were labeled with signs offering guidance to what sorts of books would be found there. There was a hallowed area where serious bibliophiles could discover antique, rare and collectible tomes, and another exclusively featuring banned books. Children’s books had their own adjoining tent, with separate sections for picture books and chapter books, plus tables covered with toys and games at the far end.
A Young Adult section connected the two tents, offering books that appeal to pre-teens, teens and many grownup readers as well. Beyond that, the explorer would find general fiction, fantasy and science fiction, mysteries, humor, literary fiction, poetry, biographies and memoirs, history and politics, philosophy, education, religion and mythology, science, nature and animals, sports and the outdoors, travel, art, music, photography, film, music, architecture, cooking, food and wine, gardening, hobbies and more. There was even a small section dedicated to books about New York State and the Hudson Valley.
As people have come to expect who look forward to this event year after year, the Elting Library Fair offers something for everyone. And for New Paltz resident Jessie Karsif, the 65th iteration of the Fair was not only a more pleasant day than anyone anticipated, weatherwise, but also a particularly lucky one for her: She held the winning ticket for the Grand Prize in the annual raffle, a two-night midweek stay for two at Mohonk Mountain House. Nice. Maybe next year it’ll be you!
The Elting Memorial Library is located at 93 Main Street (Route 299) in New Paltz. Visit www.eltinglibrary.org to learn more about its facilities, services and upcoming events, how to sign up for a library card, make a donation or become a volunteer.