October 9, 2013 —
Poor guy, that Peter, Peter. Had a wife and couldn’t keep her. Actually, I feel sorry for her, since (according to the nursery rhyme) he then resorted to putting the old ball-and-chain into a pumpkin shell “and there he kept her very well.” These words flashed through my mind while glancing at my upcoming events schedule (www.riverreporter.com/where-when ) and sensing a theme emerging. Pie eating contests, hayrides and gourds are everywhere during this time of year as the harvest festivals roll on, and I soon realized that I had better make it a point to join in, in order to remain de rigueur.
Before diving into the pumpkin patch, I whistled for the wonder dog and we made a stop in Livingston Manor (www.catskillartsociety.org ) for a reception honoring the winners of the fifth annual Jeff Bank photo calendar contest. With the photographers on hand, it was cool to see their works, hear about where and when they were shot and get a sneak peak at the 2014 calendar, which is now available (www.jeffbank.com ), with proceeds going to Catskill Art Society. The theme, “Four Seasons of Nature and Landscapes in Sullivan County,” is well represented by a slew of talented residents, and although there were no pumpkins to be found, Eldred, NY’s George Haas managed to capture October’s autumnal image beautifully. Each of the other months is equally well depicted, but I was on a mission to locate Peter and the little woman, so we bid adieu to the Manor and headed for Grahamsville, NY and the 28th annual Giant Pumpkin Party held at the fairgrounds. Having never been before, I was keen on checking it out. The children’s parade and contests are legendary, and the event is a yearly tradition for hundreds who came out in droves to support the library (www.danielpiercelibrary.org ) and have a blast doing so. Carnival games, a haunted house and horse-drawn rides are only the tip of the iceberg at this annual celebration, and Dharma and I spent several hours, admiring all of the costumed revelers participating in a wide variety of contests, including pumpkin decorating, pumpkin growing, and a country bake-off featuring (wait for it…) pumpkins. The kids were decked out in amazing outfits, and the adults were having just as much fun competing for prizes in the (duh) Giant Pumpkin Contest, with cash awards on the line. As usual, a slew of dedicated volunteers is responsible for making this event possible and for facilitating such out-of-control fun. I spoke with folks who have been attending for decades including Eileen Dooley and her daughter Ella who were dressed as a pirate and Tinkerbell respectively, and Eileen told me that although she now lives in California, she “makes the trip every year to share a little bit of her childhood” with the next generation.
Not surprisingly, Dharma’s reputation preceded her and even the guys assisting with parking (all the way in Grahamsville!) recognized her instantly, although they had no clue who I was. I sniffed with derision in their general direction, but got over it quickly as I picked out friends and neighbors in the crowd and joined in the merriment, reveling (once again) in all things country life. The dog insisted on seeing the petting zoo and (of course) I acquiesced, while sampling homemade donuts, funnel cake and the requisite pumpkin cider. All in all, it was an incredibly good time. If you’ve never been, mark your Jeff Bank calendar for next year, for it is (IMHO) really worth the trip.
On the way home, we passed the Catskill Harvest Market, (www.catskillharvest.com ), which I had noted was hosting its annual “Customer Appreciation Day” barbeque and appeared to be in full swing. Showcasing hundreds of pumpkins front and center, the market is described as “a place where farm market meets gourmet grocery,” with an emphasis on local suppliers from the Catskills, the Hudson Valley and Northeast PA. I wheeled around when I (aargh) heard the dog’s name being called and spied friends at a table, with their own canine in tow. We joined them for a burger (thanks, guys) and chewed the fat for a while, admiring the garden center and incredible fall day, before heading off in search of adventure.
It would seem that more pumpkins are in our future, as this weekend approaches. Pumpkin Fest 2013 (www.barryvilleny.com ) will take place on Saturday, October 12 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and The River Reporter will be on hand with our own festive photo booth, while helping to sponsor Barryville’s brand of pie eating, costume and scarecrow contests. Be sure to stop by, say “hi” to you-know-who and have your snapshot taken for our photo album (www.facebook.com/theriverreporter ). Unlike Peter, Peter, who “had another and didn’t love her,” I adore my pooch (in spite of her burgeoning stardom) and we’re both excited to greet you all at Pumpkin Fest, Now all I have to do (according to the poem) is “learn how to read and spell.” There’s always next week.