On a crystal-blue Saturday afternoon, October 20th, families gathered at East River State Park to enjoy the sun while taking part in the park’s Annual Fall Festival.
The festival, co-sponsored by Friends of East River State Park and the National Heritage Trust, featured “pumpkins, music, food and family fun.” The event was imbibed with a rustic, fall-in-the-country feel, from hay bales North Brooklynites used as seating, to huge pumpkins resting in the grass, to live folk music.
“We’re thrilled to be hosting this for the community,” said Alexandra Broenniman, co-chair of Friends of East River State Park. “This is a totally free event for the families of Williamsburg.”
Many local companies offered complimentary food and drinks. Red Jacket [Orchards] brought free juice and apples for the kids, while Brooklyn Roasting Company provided free coffee and Bakeri for gave donuts. Other sponsors included WallKill View Farms, which donated the pumpkins and hay bales wholesale.
There were also plenty of activities for the kids, ranging from ‘fishing’ for apples in an inflatable pool to a host of art projects. “Kids can pick out their own pumpkin to paint, and also do activities with ARTLAB,” Broenniman said, referring to the Greenpoint-based studio that offers drawing, painting, sculpture, and collage activities for children. Thanks to materials provided by ARTLAB, children had fun creating plaster sculptures and playing in sandboxes.
Three performers, Ari Brand, Hilary Hawke with the Haystack String Band, and the Beany McGee Revue, provided opportunities for city-slickers to practice their vocals.
Ari Brand, who performs at the Knitting Factory, played kids’ favorites, such as: “Baa Baa Black Sheep,” and “Wheels on the Bus.” The Beany McGee Revue, created by Park Borchert, played many sing-a-long tunes, such as “It Ain’t Gonna Rain No More” with accompaniment by an electric guitar. Hilary Hawke strummed a banjo and played folk tunes both parents and children could enjoy. Hawke’s playing, combined with the sight of children and parents dancing to the rhythm amid the hay bales, made the event seem like an urban hoedown.
Adding to that pastoral feel were (surprise!) visiting farm animals in the festival’s highly popular petting zoo. Two friendly ponies, courtesy of the company A Pampered Pony, munched grass in an enclosure, as eager children crowded around to get a chance to pet and hand-feed them. Several in the crowd remarked that many children in Brooklyn have never gotten a chance to see farm animals.
“I’m really excited to be doing it this year; I love seeing the kids like this,” said Natasha Nagawiecki, owner of A Pampered Pony, an equine spa and grooming service. “It’s great for them—look at all those happy faces!”
“I was originally going to do a clipping demonstration, but the kids seem much happier just petting and feeding them instead,” she added. Nagawieki said that this is the first year she’s been a part of the Fall Festival. Her father, Mark Nagawieki, who owns property along the park and supported the event, encouraged her to come out and participate. “I’m so glad I decided to,” she said.
“We really had a great turnout this time, better than last year, and such beautiful weather,” said Broenniman. “The Fall Festival has been an annual event for a while now, but is the second time Friends has been involved, and we hope to do it again next year.”
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