Tag Archives: new york

Woodstock Peace Festival

Woodstock, New York is a small town with a rich history. In 1903, Byrdcliffe Art Colony came to Woodstock, and from that point on art and music became an integral part of the community’s culture. Famous artists and musicians were created from Woodstock, and countless others moved to the town in pursuit of a place that shared their values and people with whom they could create. What has place the town in an international dialogue is the the 1969 Woodstock festival, with artists like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, and many more performing and joining the crowd in celebrating the music. However, the festival did not actually take place in Woodstock, though that was the initial desired location.

Jimi Hendrix performing at Woodstock Festival

Jimi Hendrix was the last act to perform at the iconic Woodstock Festival in 1969, courtesy of all-that-is-interesting.com

Since the counter-culture revolution that was Woodstock Festival, the town has continued to nurture the values of creativity, community and peace. On September 21, the International Day of Peace, the town began its first ever Woodstock Peace Festival. The opening ceremony took place on that Monday, at Bearsville Theater, followed by a project, making flags for peace, on Saturday. Sunday was the main festival, where the Bearsville Theater displayed the flags and hosted, yoga, meditation, peace talks and community discussions, as well as a picnic and musical acts, including the local Simi Stone.

Woodstock Peace Festival Poster

Woodstock Peace Festival Poster

The stated mission of the festival on its event page was to create “a joyful, holistic, community gathering to celebrate and amplify the message of peace.” No entry fee was required to enjoy the activities and performances, but a donation was suggested for the benefit of the Woodstock Peace Center, the launch of which the festival was celebrating. The Peace Center will blossom into “an international peace education program for the community’s next generation.”

Mural at Bearsville

Mural at Bearsville, courtesy of the Woodstock Peace Festival website




Only a 7-10 minute drive from the center of town, the Bearsville Complex feels like its own small village. The buildings on site emanate the warmth of a home with their rustic architecture. On the day of the festival, the theater welcomed people of all ages to watch the performances. The fire pit between the restaurants and theater had gathered people looking to sit and talk, and though the fire was not lit that afternoon, there was a different kind of light they shared between them. The complex itself sits alongside a shallow, bubbling creek, which hums along with the insects. We stepped inside the theater to catch the last two musicians of the day, Amy McTear and Simi Stone. Though there were not over 50 chairs, each was filled, and people were standing along the sides of the auditorium, softly singing along with the men and women on stage, who were dressed in white, aglow in the orange backlight.  And though the performances ended only an hour later, concluding the actual festival, the celebration was not over.

Weekends in Woodstock are normally busy, tourists visit the town’s center for shopping and dining and weekend residents from New York City walk about running errands or  just to enjoy the small town life. But amidst the movement of crowds, the Woodstock drum circle has just sat down in the center of the square. Men and women of many ages, who have grown up in the community, sit together, and play their different instruments, in a coordinated effort. Visitors are welcome to watch, and dance along, but it is clear that this performance is for the players, something they have been raised with or taught and now are passing along to the next generation. It is a rite unique to the Woodstock community, and its strength is that it has persisted through so many generations, decades and realities.


For more information on the past Woodstock Peace Festival, and the Woodstock Peace Center, visit the project’s website here.


Why Barton Orchards Exemplifies All That Is Pleasant in The Hudson Valley


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A short, twenty minute, drive from Vassar College, Barton Orchards is set in a lovely rural area of Poughaug, New York. Cars pull up onto their grass to form a temporary parking lot for the unending line of visitors eager to explore this autumn staple.

Among the the masses were church groups, nuclear families, couples, and the general local populace. Although people seemed to be pouring in through the entrance way throughout the day, (in fact, the line only increased in length as the day progressed), I never felt crowded at any point.

There was so much space and so many different offerings that the crowd was very widely dispersed and frankly invisible most of the time. Admission was reasonable, just over ten dollars for access to all that the property has to offer or three dollars for general admission, making it a prime attraction for individuals and families on a budget.

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Although primarily a recreational hot spot, Barton Orchards also has a store filled with local food to support the local economy, produce grown on the orchard itself, and general goods. Nonetheless, the storefront is definitely secondary to the rest of the Barton Orchards; it most assists local businesses by bringing visitors to Hudson Valley itself, which is quite a venture in of itself.

They boast many vegetables and fruit that visitors can pick their own of, a petting zoo, a playground, a “mining” set for younger visitors, a bakery, a haunted house, a tractor-pulled hay ride, and a corn maze.

The corn maze is based off of New York City street artist Matt Siren’s work. The maze has various stations that teach wanderers about graffiti art.  For more information, check out this post by a Brooklyn Street Art Group, http://www.brooklynstreetart.com/theblog/2013/07/28/matt-sirens-ghost-girl-maze-poughquag-new-york/ .

The iconic Ghost Girl connects this Hudson Valley attraction with the city that provides the most tourism to such rural attractions. A very great decision by Barton Orchard owners indeed.

Extremely scenic in a small-town type of way, Barton Orchards embodies what so many visitors to the Hudson Valley picture. The petting zoo has adorable llamas, pigs, chickens, ponies and miniature ponies, a mule, and goats. Many of the animals run right up to the fences, eager to eat fro the palms of giggling children and stone-faced adults, who are apt to crack a smile as furry noses tickle their hands.

Cups of fresh brewed apple cider appear in and out of sight as the noon sun reminds guests

Barton Orchards 9how pleasing fall drinks are to the palate. Even the buzzing of a chainsaw from a man cutting lumber in to bears and eagles rings soothingly in the ear.

The local charm is only further accentuated by the large apple orchard and pumpkin patch. The gloriously sweet and crisp apples and large, bright pumpkins exemplify what it means to be a Hudson Valley Resident in the autumn. People typically picture such benefits of fall as being beautiful, cracked leaves on the sidewalk and day trips to pick-your-own farms, and Barton Orchards certainly delivers on that expectation.

Overall, a visit to Barton Orchards makes for a memorable day trip that speaks wonders of Hudson Valleys local atmosphere and charm.

To find out more, visit Barton Orchards’ website: http://www.bartonorchards.com



Emily and Leela Explore Columbia County!

On Friday, September 13th, ENST 291 ventured north on the Taconic Parkway to explore Columbia County. First, we visited the dairy component of Grazin’ Angus Acres in Ghent NY. Grazin’ Angus Acres is primarily a 300 acre meat farm, while the neighboring dairy operation is only 40 acres. Although the farm is not “organic,” it is a small-scale operation with a high regard for land management.

There, we met Saundra Ball, a worker on the farm. Glad to “tell the story of what a dairy looks like,” she proudly showed us cows in their field and the cleanliness of the farm’s milking barn. The whole operation was incredibly picturesque:



The obvious care for the land and cows in this operation makes us ask a question: how does this operation sustain itself in Columbia County? The main answer is demand in New York City. The dairy’s “grass-fed” milk comes at a price: $7 per half gallon. To some, this may seem like a shockingly high price, but Saundra claims this is a price that the market in New York City is willing to pay, where the milk is marketed as “grass-fed.” In fact, the Hudson Valley’s proximity to the city is partly what attracted her, originally from Texas, to the area. She considers the Hudson Valley to be the best location for beginning farmers, both because of the increasing NYC demand for local farm products, including her non-homogenized milk, and because it is not necessary for one to own land before beginning to farm. Still, she stresses the need for small farms to share resources, asserting that the farm could definitely not afford selling to a commodity system before consumer purchase.

For Saundra, a Columbia University graduate with two Master’s degrees and previous work in international affairs, to pick a career in dairy farming may first surprise you. However, she is only one of many graduates of elite colleges and universities who are getting involved in a growing movement that criticizes the practices of large scale food production and encourages the growth of small, local farms. “It makes a lot more sense [economically] to pack cows into machines, but we value small farms,” says Saundra.  Highly educated but living on a wage of fifty dollars a day, she is nonetheless immensely satisfied by the work she does, including the close connection she shares with the cows. In addition, it is the everyday “meditative” routine and communication with nature she is able to have that really makes her enjoy what she does. Learn more about Saundra in her interview with Heritage Radio Network here.

From the farm, our group then ventured off to a more densely settled landscape: Hudson, NY. The city is well known for its antiques, restaurants, and music scene that cater to weekenders from New York City and give the small city its charm. We studied the planned site of the Marina Abromovich Institute. What was a dilapidated community athletic center will soon be a mecca for performance art enthusiasts:


“Community Tennis” no more

The juxtaposition of worn structures with the relatively recent gentrification of Warren St. does visually display the underlying economic inequalities of the city as well as how essential tourism is to Hudson. When it is considered that more people on average live in poverty in Hudson than elsewhere in New York State, an important question should be asked: can the benefits of the economic growth in Hudson’s amenity economy be distributed to all residents? Hopefully we can continue to ponder this question in different contexts throughout this course.


Warren St. in Hudson

Chest of drawers priced at $32,000 at Noonan Antiques

Chest of drawers priced at $32,000 at Noonan Antiques


Adoring Amazing, Albeit Antiquated, Amenia (Ah, Alliteration!)


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.

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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.

Amenia Sep 6 Miranda Kay

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.

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Such wonderful experiences prevail in Amenia, where small flower arrangements adorn the the town center and small shoppes fill their shelves with local produce.Amenia Sep 6 Miranda Kay 2