Handmade in the shade

Woodstock-New Paltz Art & Crafts Fair marks 30th year at Ulster Fairgrounds this weekend

by Frances Marion Platt
May 26, 2011 09:10 AM | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Ceramic “Face” Teapot - Jerilynn  &  Mel Babroff
Ceramic “Face” Teapot - Jerilynn & Mel Babroff
How many times can one go back to the Woodstock-New Paltz Art & Crafts Fair? After all, it has been visiting the Ulster County Fairgrounds, just southwest of New Paltz, for 30 years now – for most of that time, twice a year: on Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends. And many of the same high-end crafts vendors come back year after year after year. But for many past visitors, the answer to that rhetorical question is, “As often as I have a little extra money in my pocket to treat myself or buy someone a special gift.” The show’s standard of quality remains very high, and the array of choices from the hundreds of artisans always intriguing.

So why go back twice a year? Or why choose one summer-bookend weekend over the other, if you’re only planning to go once? Well, May is the prime time to go if you have any interest at all in beautifying your outdoor living spaces. Landscape Arts will be featured, as they have every Memorial Day weekend since 1997, and this year will claim their own tent with displays of masonry and metal sculpture, copper and ceramic fountains, bluestone wall constructions and iron forge work. You can carry home a beautifully made garden implement or go whole-hog and commission a mini-Opus 40 for your own backyard. This author will be keeping an eye out for a yard sculpture spotted in a previous May: a hanging copper cutout of a fish that would make a smashing deck-warming present for my brother’s fishing cottage in Ontario.

Another special attraction of this weekend’s Crafts Fair is a new 30th anniversary tee-shirt that has been commissioned to honor the artists and craftspeople who have exhibited there over the years – some of them since the Fair’s inception. A portion of the proceeds from sales of the shirt will go to a flood relief charity. “To remain successful over these decades is a remarkable achievement,” notes Quail Hollow Events co-director Neil Rubinstein appreciatively. “In addition to developing a comprehensive business strategy, social and sales skills must be honed for the discerning public. It is essential for work to be new and innovative, along with the knowledge of display and marketing. The ability to fix your own vehicle doesn’t hurt either.”

As always, the Fair will feature live crafts demos, a handcrafted specialty food tent, sources for crafts supplies, continuous live music by topnotch regional performers and a broad ethnic range of fair-food concessions. There will also be a tent with supervised children’s craftmaking activities, so parents can safely leave the kids to have their own fun while you shop. (I definitely recommend it over inflicting black-and-blue ankles on total strangers as you try to maneuver that double stroller through exhibitor tents filled with elbow-to-elbow shoppers.)

The Woodstock-New Paltz Art & Crafts Fair is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, May 28 and May 29, but closes a bit earlier, at 4 p.m., on Memorial Day itself: Monday, May 30. The Ulster County Fairgrounds are located at 249 Libertyville Road. Traffic from New York State Thruway Exit 18 along Route 299 (Main Street of New Paltz) can be hellish on Crafts Fair weekends, so take a tip from the locals: Coming the long way around via Route 44/55 in Gardiner so that you’re northbound on Libertyville Road is often worth the extra few miles of driving.

Admission to the Fair costs $8 for adults, $7 for seniors, and children age 12 and under get in free. You can print a $1 entry discount coupon and get lots more info at the Quail Hollow website at

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