Food, fun and fracking highlighted at Taste of the Catskills

Cheryl PetersenJeff Wilson performs Western dressage during the Taste of the Catskills Festival in Delhi on Saturday.             

Sounds of giddy children, melodic musicians and chatty adults reverberated through the Catskills in Delhi over the weekend. The Taste of the Catskills Festival, outfitted to entertain, feed and educate, sprawled over spacious lawn at Maple Shade Farm, open to a large crowd.

Vendors lined up inside the nearby Maple Shade barn, built in 1897 with hand-hewn beams. 

Advocating for the region, vendor Catskill Mountainkeeper presented a lineup of footage showing the detriments of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, but at the same time acknowledged that the issue boils down to changing the American culture, heady with non-renewable energy consumption.

On Saturday, Catskill Mountainkeeper Executive Director Ramsey Adams presented Natalie Merchant and Jon Bowermaster, of Ulster County, with the honor of “Keeper of the Catskills Award.”

Merchant spearheaded the making of a fracking protest concert film, "Dear Governor Cuomo," with Bowermaster and others. She is also a notable writer, singer and performer who advocates for an array of social justice issues.

“Fracking changes the landscape in unimaginable ways," Bowermaster said. "I feel it’s important to remind New Yorkers how lucky we are not to have fracking.”

Under tents, more vendors served foods, much of which included local produce grown in the Catskills. Grass-fed beef in tamales, pulled pork in sandwiches, and farm-raised chicken on rice were among the offerings.

The Firefighter McPadden Pipes & Drums, of Goshen, serenaded a rapt audience on Saturday afternoon with 18 tunes. 

“I’ve been playing bagpipes for 30 years,” said Tom Engles of Pine Bush. “The instrument has four reeds and I blow into the bag to keep the pressure up and get sound when I squeeze.”

A placard held merchandise crafted and grown in the local area. 

“I knit and have always been curious about alpaca yarn," Judy Mouller of Unadilla said while inspecting a pair of hand-knit mittens. "I see we have alpaca yarn and products right here in the region.”

A livestock arena was set up to spotlight local horse businesses. Jeff Wilson, owner of Black Willow Morgans in Delhi, was one of a few who performed on their horses, giving a demonstration of Western dressage. 

More animals were on the farm as part of the petting zoo. Ducks, piglets, turkeys, and a donkey loaned their feathers and fur for stroking by kids entranced by quacking, grunting, and gobbling.

Traveling from Connecticut to West Virginia, the Sonneville family heard about Taste of the Catskills and bought tickets online. Parents Jonathan and Nadine introduced farm animals to 1-year-old Ember. 

“She liked the kittens the best,” said Jonathan Sonneville.

“My favorite bouncy house was the Wrecking Ball,” said 5-year old Jaden Lewis of Delhi. But his buddy from Hobart, 4-year-old Shae Trimbell, said his favorite place to bounce was the Palm Tree/Rock Wall house. “We got to go on the Hillbilly train ride too,” the boys added.

In the background, music could be heard from three corners within the 200-acre farm. In the Ommegang Brewery tent, Coyote Love performed blues-based music. Renaissance man and singer Hank Coyote Wagner said in between songs, “At Taste of the Catskills I learned how to pronounce correctly, Ommegang. I’ve been saying it wrong all these years but drinking it right.” 

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