Tag Archives: Rhinebeck

Day One Hundred and Nineteen: Walking the Dutchess County Fair Friday, August 24th, 2018

I took some time off from walking in the City to walking around Upstate. I read that the Dutchess County Fair was the last week of August and I had not visited it since my first summer when I was attending the Culinary Institute of America in 1996.  I wanted to see if it changed much in twenty years and it hasn’t.

From parking in the lot at the Dutchess County to the buildings that housed the animals and displays it looked to me that nothing changed in over twenty years with the exception of people taking pictures with their phones. Even then, I did not see that many phones out. The Fair was in its 173rd year and people were just having a good time with their families.

From walking to the admission booths (it was $10.00 to get into the fairgrounds) to walking the paths not much had changed. When visiting the fairgrounds means almost a step back into time when things seemed so much slower. Being just outside Rhinebeck with its galleries and high-end restaurants it seemed a world away.

My day started late as I had so many errands to run and work in the morning that I got off to a late start. I got to the Dutchess County Fair Grounds at 3:00pm and spent the rest of my afternoon exploring the Fair. It is so interesting to see how much has changed in the world but how little it really changes. A cow is a cow at the end of the day. How to take care of it and milk it have changed over the time and the philosophy of animals and their care have advanced but the cow is still in the pen, fed hay and goes Moo!

Walking the Fair is interesting in that it is broken down into many different areas to explore but when you first walk in what is there but all the food carts and booths. I have never seen so much deep-fried food in my life and I have been through the Feast of San Genaro dozens of times. There were food trucks selling fried dough, funnel cakes, Twinkies, brownies and zeppoli’s. It is hardly for the Vegan customer.

My first stop in the Fair was the Amusement section where all the kiddie rides, Ferris wheels, games of chance and thrill rides were located. In the early part of the day, the area was mildly busy but by the time I left and the lights came on the true ‘Wonderland’ came to life. The lights, the noise and all the screaming coming from the thrill rides brought the area to life. During the day though, it was little kids on the carousels, mini-rides and small track rides. To be a kid again at this Fair.

Dutchess County Fair II.jpg

Dutchess County Fair Midway

Leaving the Amusement area, I ventured next to the historical area of the Fair where the Cider Mill, Sugar Home, the One Room Schoolhouse and the Historic Train Station were located. These recreations of old Dutch farming villages showed a way of life from the turn of the last century and beyond. It is amazing to see how we have progressed in education since then but I think the times were different.

When I walked all these buildings that were created before electricity, computers and even modern light, I think there were less distractions and you had no choice but to work. Those were the days of back-breaking work loads and things were done totally by hand. Still it is interesting to see how these things were made.

The school room I have seen in many historic museums and have not much changed from their modern version except the furniture has gotten nicer and there is more light. The philosophy of learning the ‘ABC’s’ is still there and the black boards are still part of the routine. I still think it is the best way to learn.

The pathway lead me to the Animal Barns and this is where the Fair had not changed. The families stood guard at their at the different pens washing and taking care of the pets. I never saw such pampering to pigs, cows, chickens and goats. They were so well-groomed and well taken care of and their pens were so clean and if they weren’t the kids were right there to take care of it.

I saw the cow grooming show when I was visiting the Cow Barn and I have never seen such clean cows before. They were washed, brushed and combed by their owners and it reminded me of similar judging at the Dog Shows that I see on TV. When they walked their cows along the path in the ring, there was such pride in the owners faces especially to the winners. I have to say that the ribbons were very impressive.

The Llama Barn was interesting in that I usually find Llama to be friendlier but these animals really kept to themselves and stood in the corners of their pens. They seemed to want to socialize with one another and avoid the humans.

The Goat Barn was the exact opposite. I could not have met a friendlier animal with good social graces. They looked like they were so happy to see me. They all came running up to me as I stood by their pens. They are really are an observant animal. They just stare you down when you are looking at them and then they walk away.

The surprising part of the Pig Barn was that it wasn’t a pig pen. It was one of the cleanest parts of the Fair. Each of the stalls were really clean with only the smell of the pigs which probably surprised people coming up from the City. The only thing was some of these over-sized pigs didn’t fit into the pens and there was not much moving room for them. They really do oink a lot.

My favorite part of the animal barns was the Commerford’s Petting Zoo that they had between the amusement areas and the barns. I never got into petting zoos even when I was a kid but got some feed from what looked like bubble gum machines and then the goats and sheep were putty in my hands. They were so friendly and let me pet their warm fur. I have never seen so many happy faces chasing after me. The sheep had such a nice feel to them with their soft furry backs and the goats which I thought might be aggressive could not have been friendlier.

When you pet them they seem so grateful that you are scratching their backs. I ended up spending more time here than I planned feeding the animals and petting them. They seemed so happy that they got extra attention.

The Horticultural Building reminded me of my many trips to the Philadelphia Flower Show, large self-contained displays of flowers, lawn decorations and furniture each with their own them. There was a lot of creativity to their displays with water sources, planted flowers and shrubs all over the place all colorfully designed. They also used some statuary to accent the plantings. It was a nice size building made even bigger with these creative gardens.

After visiting all the barns and historic recreations, it was off for a late lunch. I headed back to the food trucks to decide between the cheese steaks, meatball sandwiches and fried desserts. I decided on a pulled pork sandwich with pickles and a Coke for lunch that was more than enough. The sweetness of the barbecue sauce with the roasted meat on a soft roll made a wonderful meal. The nice part was sitting under a tree on a picnic table to enjoy my lunch. On a nice day, there is nothing like it.

I avoided all the fried desserts and got a traditional pretzel with mustard from a vendor from Pennsylvania. The was an expensive pretzel at $8.00 but it was well worth it. The thing was huge, freshly rolled and made and was still hot. With a little mustard there is nothing like it. The softness and butteriness of the outside made every bite enjoyable.

After lunch, walked through the rest of the barns looking at rabbits, chickens and taking another peek at the Goat Barn. They are really are a beautiful animal. After leaving the barns area, I walked down to watch the Equestrians perform. There is such a grace to jumping and the ladies did a great job. Some of them are so poised on their horses.

As the afternoon wore on, my last stop was the Gift tents where they were selling handmade arts and crafts. You should see the work of these knitters, quilters and wood carvers. Some of the baby blankets and clothes were so beautifully made and colorful that I wished I had someone to give it to as a gift. The wood carvers were getting ready for the holidays with Santa’s and snowmen. It never ceases to amaze me that we are in a perpetual state of Christmas no matter what time of year it is. The surrealist look of many of these Santa’s  were done by the cut of wood that the artist had to work with when carving the piece. These men and women are very creative in their work and they will be back in October for the Craft’s Show.

Before I left for the evening, a saw a long line forming by the 4 H Exhibit Building and I found out they were selling giant homemade milkshakes with the milk and cream from the Dairy Barns. The sold these large Vanilla, Chocolate and Strawberry shakes for only $5.00! That was one line I did not mind being in. I ordered this Vanilla shake where you really could taste the fresh ice cream which was was loaded with several scoops. There is nothing like a fresh milkshake with real ice cream. It was the perfect way to cap off the evening.

Walking the Fair at twilight you really see it come to life with all the lights, screaming kids by the rides and hungry patrons at the food trucks. It is so funny to see these small kids gobble down cheese steaks and fried dough. They had some appetites! When you work on a farm and take care of the animals as I saw the fairgoers did they must burn off all the calories.

It was a great day and I learned a few things about Animal Husbandry and landscaping. I just wondered why on the way home it took me twenty-two years to come back.

The Dutchess County Fair is the last week of August and is well worth the trip up to Rhinebeck.

Dutchess County Fair

http://dutchessfair.com/dutchess-fair/

 

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Day Thirty-Two December 5, 2015 “Sinterklaas in Rhinebeck, NY

The Christmas holiday season was a whirlwind of activities for me that took me again away from Manhattan and up to Rhinebeck, New York for the annual ‘Sinterklaas Holiday Festival’ and activities. Sinterklaas is a Dutch holiday tradition that has been recaptured in the Hudson River Valley and is run the first Saturday in December every year. It is to celebrate the coming of ‘Sinterklaas’ or “Santa Claus” as we know it. This was my third year in helping out in the parade.

As the literature states, ‘Sinterklaas is the celebration where children are transformed into Kings and Queens and honored as the bringers of the light at the darkest time of the year.

The tradition of Sinterklaas comes all the way from the Netherlands, brought by the Dutch settlers who arrived in Rhinebeck over 300 years ago. Sinterklaas, the patron of children and sailors, finds a welcoming community in the Mid-Hudson Valley as recreated through the lens of modern day America.

The revived tradition is non-denominational and all inclusive, everyone is invited to participate. The young, the old, the in-between, absolutely everyone and anyone who wants to be part of a community of hope for a joyous and peaceful world are all welcome.’

Our coordinator for the parade, Trish, wanted me up by 10:00am and that was a treat taking a two hour drive from Northern New Jersey to Upstate New York, but it ended up being a very nice and very quick trip up as there was no traffic on the road.

Again the weather could not have been nicer as it reached 60 degrees in Rhinebeck at the height of the afternoon and even I could not believe it got that warm. It was such a nice day that when we were putting the floats together, I did not even need a jacket.

I put together the ‘Honey Bee’ puppets as my first project. The artist did a really nice job with them as they were our theme for the parade, honoring one of nature’s creatures, the Honey Bee.

‘Distinct from all other animals with the exception of those that give us milk, the Honey Bee makes more honey than they need for themselves and that’s why there is enough for us. They don’t just give us sweetness but medicine, flowers, fruits, vegetables and meat, natures beauty and bounty. They make our lives beautiful, tasty and nutritious.’

We put the puppets together in record time and later in the parade (see YouTube under ‘Sinterklaas Parade 2015), they made quite a site as it grew dark and they lit up the beginning of the parade. After my partner, Liz and I, put them all together, we worked on the knight horse costumes for the parade and then on the star puppets. We had so many people helping that we got done in record time and got to spend the afternoon enjoying the activities in the afternoon. We did not have to be back until 4:30pm for the startup of the parade.

Sinterklaas Parade

The festival was chock full of events for all age groups, from puppet shows, to book readings, musical acts on stilts, storytelling and all sorts of musicians from the local colleges from brass bands to a Capella groups to choirs performed at all the churches and at city hall. In the parking lot across from the Beekman Arms Hotel, there were high wire acts, local bands and all over town there were local groups like the Four H and the Boy Scouts selling treats at booths all over the Main Street.

There is a special show at the Church of the Messiah called “Into the Light: A holiday Spectacular”, which has become very popular every year. The lines wrapped around the building. Its the holiday story of a young girl’s journey throughout the world searching for the light. The play features giant puppets and groups of children from the church singing.

There was a giant honeycomb in the courtyard by the restaurant that makes thin-crusted pizzas and the kids got to meet the Queen Bee. The line was so long that I could not get in but later that evening I was able to see the inside and I have to say that one of the artists was creative in putting this together.

I also saw a giant polar bear walking around town and you had to sing him. It must have been a long day for the actor who had to do that in that heavy costume but it was fun to watch. Watching the kids to sing to him and watch the bear dance was a lot fun.

There was a Pocket Lady who symbolizes the generosity of Sinterklaas and in her pockets are all secret surprises for children and at the Rhinebeck Fire Department there was a Crowns & Branches workshop where kids could decorate branches and crowns that would be used in the parade and meeting the Wish Lady, who would provide a wish for your branch. Watching the Grumpus do there dance all over town was a lot of fun. They are some of Sinterklaas’s helpers and I swear are probably the same people who have been doing it for years. They dance and bang drums all over town.

Sinterklaas Parade III

The Grumpuses

The best part was visiting the Reformed Church for their bake sale. They had really good frosted cookies and I swear I went back three times much to the thankfulness of the kids running the booth. The Third Evangelical Lutheran Church has a lunch area in the basement and they made a mean grilled cheese for a small donation and the tables off to the side was laden with Christmas cookies, which were part of the cost of the lunch. When I tell you these people can bake at the Church, they can bake. Their frosted cookies and cakes were really good. For a small donation, you can eat like a king for lunch.

At dusk, when it starts getting darker, the lights on the trees come into full form and all the businesses on the Main Street light up their display windows. The town looks like a little Christmas village out of a Currier & Ives portrait. It really puts you in the Christmas mood.

I got back to the library at 5:00pm to get ready for the parade. My job like last year was lighting Sinterklaas himself. That is a lot of fun because you are at the beginning of the parade and you get to see the whole parade coming down the hill and that is quite a site.

Like the Macy’s Parade, there is such anticipation at the start of the parade and watching it come down the hill is like being at Mardi Gras. It is so well lit and so colorful with bands playing and people dancing and so full of energy. It looks like a giant party coming down the hill.

The guy who plays Sinterklaas I worked with the year before so I knew him. We did not get to talk much during the rain storm that drenched everyone last year and we just wanted to get off the parade route. This year it was still slightly warm as the parade started so it was fun to spend a lot of time with the kids. He is a naturally born ham and the kids just adored the guy. I had to chase him around the parade route with a lighting pack and a giant candle that lit him. He had all the fun and I had to make sure that he did not go dark the whole time. Work yes but it is so much fun watching how he made each one of these children’s day. Every time he passed a child to talk to them, they were so happy and they cheered.

Sinterklaas Parade II

Sinterklaas

That was the power of Sinterklaas. If you are not in the holiday spirit, the Sinterklaas parade will definitely put you in the mood. It was a spectacular night of bands, great costumes, creative puppets and festive cheer.

It didn’t end a moment too soon as it typical with Rhinebeck this time of the year that the temperature drops like ten degrees in one hour. I handed my lighting wand in and watched all the costume characters from the parade get introduced to the crowd by the parade leaders. It was a nice way to end the parade and collect all the props while keeping everyone engaged.

I spent the night in Rhinebeck and relaxed. This is one event you should not miss while in Upstate New York. The Sinterklaas Celebration is a real treat of holiday activities and good cheer!

Merry Christmas!

The Sinterklaas Parade 2015