Hello and welcome. My name is Elena Ruggieri-Smithies and I’m a freshman at Vassar College. I’m originally from Columbus, Ohio, but I’m glad to be in Poughkeepsie for the next four years of my education. Though Ohio is known for its soybeans, cows, and corn, Columbus is a metropolis that dwarfs Poughkeepsie in size and population. Living here has opened my eyes to the beauty and simplicity of living away from a big city. I can now truly appreciate a night sky full of stars and the fresh air and even the quaint town of Arlington.
For our first field trip in this class, we traveled to Amenia, a small and inconspicuous town just forty five minutes away from Vassar. The trip there was a colorful blur of greens and yellows and browns of the country side. When we reached the one, lonely light we took a left to reach the farmer’s market. Here we parked and disembarked and surveyed the few white tents that housed the vendors and their goods. I saw fresh produce, olive oil, baked goods, homemade soaps, spices, dairy products, clothing, and more.
I tried some of the tomatoes, even though my instincts told me they weren’t ripe, and yet to my surprise they tasted of summer and warmth. The spices in the gold lipped jars smelled delicious and brought back memories of my mom’s Italian cooking. The vendors at every stand were kind and inviting. I spoke with the vendor for Ronnybrook Dairy Farms and purchased a drinkable yogurt only to instantly fall in love with the wonderful mango flavor. Later I tried peach and then strawberry. Another stand I stopped by sold fresh baked goods such as brownies, scones, cookies, pies, and so much more.
A cute diner sat on the corner of the main street intersection. The theater portion is said to open up later in the fall.
Across from the diner was the town bank, a shimmering fountain (above) and a memorial to those who lost their life in battle (below).
As a relative newcomer to the Hudson Valley, I’ve found myself unmistakably enthralled by the particularly quaint town of Amenia. My joy for Amenia and its wonderful ice cream is quite palpable in the above picture. Raised in southern Connecticut, my experiences with farmer’s market’s had always been quite an unremarkable experience. The foodstuffs would be displayed lovingly while those selling their produce would remark with the regulars about such trivialities as weather as cars drove by meters away.
What I discovered in Amenia during my trip with Vassar College’s Field Experiences of Hudson Valley course were very warm individuals offering, what were sometimes, their primary source of income with an incredible attention to detail. A few stands covered a lot right beside the town center.
What an outsider may not realize right away is that the intentionally dilapidated antique storefront facing the multi-purpose store is the very center of Amenia. When one notices that the main attraction for the town is quite beyond the, largely residential, center, it becomes ever more clear that Amenia exists very much thanks to it’s amenity-based economy. Visitors come for the cute store front lined with rusted wares and for the part drive-in-movie-theatre-part-ice-cream-shoppe.
The town’s inhabitants exhibit both pride and a subtle level of coy acceptance of their locations. I found one man working at the drive-in theatre quite pleased with the layout of modern furniture pieces placed beside an antiquated ice cream cone structure large enough to tower above the craned necks of children.
Such wonderful experiences prevail in Amenia, where small flower arrangements adorn the the town center and small shoppes fill their shelves with local produce.
Hello! My name is Leela Stalzer. As a native to Ulster County and as a frequent visitor to Dutchess, I was feeling as if everything in our class was going to be at least mostly familiar. I attended high school in Kingston, which is one of only six cities in what we are calling the Hudson Valley, and I’ve been to Montgomery Place, the Mohonk Mountain House (I think my parents had their wedding reception there), the Bread Alone Bakery, Woodstock, Fishkill (my grandmother lives there), DIA Beacon, the Clearwater Festival, the Tibetan Buddhist Monastery, Upstate Films, FDR’s house, the Vanderbilt Mansions, and many of the other places mentioned in class and in the articles we have been reading.
However, the trip to Amenia made me realize that although I’ve had all these experiences in the Hudson Valley, living there has made me taken both its apparently uncommon beauty and its attractive culture for granted. I am also sure I will continue being surprised by how much I don’t know and how much I just didn’t realize about the place I consider home.
Please ignore the terrible selfie, and direct your attention instead to the other pictures, which evoke Amenia’s sense of beautiful simplicity. It seems to me that those who run the farmers’ markets, the vintage shops, and the drive-in theaters in the towns of the Hudson Valley hope to enjoy this simplicity, along with feelings of leisure, in their everyday lives. This is also, I think, part of what draws so many people to areas like Amenia.