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August 30, 2016
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Soap Box Derby planned for Liberty; Is Phish coming back to Bethel Woods?

Big plans are taking shape for Memorial Day Weekend this year in Liberty. Dale Vandenberg, president of Hillside Greenhouses in Liberty, addressed the Liberty Town Board on February 21, and said the plans include car shows, music, street vendors and the huge annual yard sale. But perhaps the most ambitious development is that North Main Street will be host to Liberty’s first Soap Box Derby.

The closest derby event has been held in Pert Jervis for about the past 14 years, and has become so large that the race no longer accepts the youngest class of racers. The race in Liberty will include them as well as children aged seven to 16 years.

Vandenberg, whose wife Carol is listed as a director on the All American Soap Box Derby website,, said about 50 racers are expected to compete in the program, which should last from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, May 27. He said the event may attract 1200 spectators to the town.

Supervisor Charlie Barbuti endorsed the derby. He said, “The kids have to practice and make the car themselves.”

Vandenberg said it was his understanding that the jam band Phish would be playing at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts again this year for three shows, as it did last year on Memorial Day Weekend, and that the derby would give the concert goers something to do in the daytime.

Councilman Chris Austin referred to the Phish dates as an “inside rumor.” However Julie Goodman, the public relations and marketing coordinator at Bethel Woods, wrote in an email, “There is nothing confirmed for Phish, or for Memorial Day Weekend.”

In any case, the discussion at the meeting turned toward tents and backyards. Councilman Maurice Gerry said the town should develop a policy about accommodating the large number of people that may come to either or both events. He said, “If it means an extra tent, I don’t see that we have to have someone religiously going around counting how many people are on my lawn.”

Code enforcement officer Mark VanEtten said a couple of tents on a lawn is one thing, but, “If somebody is advertising 300 or 400 camping sites on their property and they don’t have the health and safety facilities for it, that’s a huge issue.”

Barbuti added, “I can see this could be a problem because there are people that would want to have 200 campers on two acres of ground.”

Councilman Dean Farrand said, “We don’t have enough motel rooms to take care of 1500 people, and it would be a shame to have three days of events and have people go home after four hours; it would be nice if they came on Saturday morning and would be inclined to stay until Monday.”

No one was certain if there are limits set by the NYS Department of Health regarding tents on residential or commercial properties, and what is allowed and what is not.
VanEtten said he would get the information from the health department and forward it to the council members.