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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, October 16, 2008

Thacher Park festival offers something for everyone

By Jo E. Prout

VOORHEESVILLE — Scarecrow making, Helderberg Hildie, and skillet tossing will all be part of the fifth-annual Thacher Park Fall Festival this Saturday.

More than 1,000 people attended the event last year, according to events coordinator Joy Scism of John Boyd Thacher State Park.

“Each year it gets better,” she said. “This is really a community event.”

Volunteers and park staff run the activities, which include guided hay rides. The entry fee to the festival is $5 per vehicle, and hay rides cost $1 each, or $3 per family. The small fees benefit programs at the Emma Treadwell Thacher Nature Center, and other park programs, Scism said.

Helderberg Hildie, a seven-foot tall witch with a cut-out for a face, will be on hand for picture-taking as she has since the first festival. Each year, the festival adds a new cut-out, around which a scavenger hunt is centered. The new addition this year is Atticus the Owl. Visitors are welcome to bring cameras to take their pictures with Atticus, Scism said.

For the scavenger hunt, “You come and you find clues associated with the new cut-out,” Scism said. Those who finish the hunt can come back to scavenger-hunt headquarters for a prize, she said.

Something for everyone

Activities for all ages are planned.

“There’s a lot to this,” Scism said.

Make-and-take scarecrows are good for any age, and for little ones who have help, she said. Patrons can bring their own outfits to design their scarecrows, or they can use the park’s limited supply, she said.

The festival features a “cyder cycle,” made by the grandfather of a worker at the nature center, Scism said.

“It’s a bicycle that makes cider,” she said. The cycle is hooked up to a cider press. Older children can hop aboard and pedal to turn the crank on the press. “It’s totally fun,” Scism said.

“We have a hay maze and pumpkin painting,” she said. L’il Rich Farms from Schoharie will set up and run the hay maze, and sell pumpkins for painting. Faces will be painted, too.

“Little kids really love it, but all ages can do it,” Scism said.

Last year, the festival offered the old sport of skillet tossing, traditionally done by women, often at the heads of dummies at some small-town fairs. Skillet tossing’s popularity has risen to include women’s, men’s, and team events. Scism said that the Thacher Park Fall Festival competition was also designed around women.

“It’s definitely something that women are going to like to do, but the men really liked doing it,” she said.

A new event this year is “an old-fashioned saw competition” using a two-handled saw, Scism said. “This year, someone is donating lumber for the two-person sawing contest,” she said. The competition is timed, and only those 14 years old or older are eligible to enter. Each team will try to saw through a six- to eight-inch round log as fast as it can.

A tea-leaf reader from the 1743 Palatine House in Schoharie will awe festival-goers.

“She’ll tell them their future,” Scism said. “It’s totally for entertainment.”

Each year, wildlife presenter Beth Bidwell brings creatures to the festival for both entertainment and education. This year, Scism said, Bidwell will bring birds of prey and do two presentations.

Music lovers can hear acoustic rockers the 3 J’s from noon to 2 p.m. From 2 to 4 p.m., acoustic folk singer George Robinson, known as George R, will wander the festival, performing as he goes.

Natural and cultural history displays on caving, bats, and other parks in the region will be at the festival, as will information on fossils, Scism said.

Future spelunkers can crawl into the park’s squeezebox.

“This simulates the space that you would need to crawl in if you were in a cave. You can adjust it to see how much you need to squeeze into a cave’s small spaces,” she said.

Other park events have sponsored the Regional Food Bank of Northeast New York, and this year, the festival will, too.

“We have a drop for food, and if anyone wants to donate money,” Scism said. Non-perishable food or items like shampoo are welcome, she said.

The Berne-Knox-Westerlo Girl Scouts will hold a bake sale, while local vendors will offer honey, jewelry, soaps, leatherwork, and woodwork. Food vendors will also be there, Scism said.

Kids can make cornhusk dolls, animal masks, or slate paintings, she said. People can also “buy” a five-foot by five-foot square of pavement to decorate with chalk, she said.

The mounted police from New York City will be there, and the Rensselaer Search and Rescue team will showcase its equipment at the festival.

“Many volunteers volunteer their time doing an number of things — set-up, face painting, games and activities, arts and crafts, hayrides, and scarecrow-building assistance,” Scism said. “We are still in need of volunteers to help with several aspects of the festival.” Last-minute volunteers can call the park office, she said.

The festival will take place at the Pear Orchard Picnic Area at the John Boyd Thacher State Park on Saturday, Oct. 18, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The rain date is Sunday, Oct. 19, at the same hours.

“It’s a really fun and wonderful time for everybody,” Scism said.

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