Upper Union Street and Mabee Farm host fall festivals
SCHENECTADY COUNTY Outside Pai’s Academy of Taekwondo, a white-outfitted, black-belted instructor was teaching Natalia Bordonaro how to grunt.
“Come on, give me another one,” he said.
“Hunhhh,” she grunted, deep and low, from the pit of her 7-year-old stomach.
“All right, you’re ready,” he said, bending a knee and holding a wooden board out in front of his body. “One, two, three!”
She brought the heel of her palm down on the board, which quickly snapped in two and prompted a big smile from Natalia, who later admitted it was suspiciously easy.
The “break a board” demonstration was one of dozens of activities for families and individuals Saturday on Upper Union Street. The normally busy corridor was even busier than usual, as food vendors, crafts, retail promotions, markets and charity drives drew hundreds to the eighth annual Upper Union Street Harvest Fest and Art Show, which tied in with Schenectady County’s annual Farm & Foliage Day.
There were food tastings outside local restaurants, live music from jazz and acoustic bands on storefront patios, free cider at Gershon’s Deli, face paintings and pony rides.
“So far we bought some books and got our faces painted,” said David Bordonaro, who watched as the instructor goaded his other daughter into breaking a board. “My wife owns a photography studio up the street, so we’ve been looking forward to this day.”
The buzz on Upper Union Street was intoxicating Saturday, drawing in nearby residents and curious passers-by, but activities at the Mabee Farm Historic Site in Rotterdam Junction that gave the day a real “farm and foliage” feel.
The activities were set on the 300-year-old farmstead, where golden leaves crunched underfoot and trees still had enough leaves to cast a canopy over the Dutch barn. The air smelled of autumn in upstate New York, and nearby alpacas squealed from their pen as kids sat on hay bales stuffing scarecrows and painting pumpkins.
“The scarecrows and the pumpkins are probably the two best things we offer today,” said D.J. LeBlanc, executive assistant at the site. “It gives the kids some hands-on stuff to do while the parents take in some of the vendors and other exhibits. We have a hayride in the afternoon and fiber vendors in our main building, so people tend to come and make a nice little day out of it.”
Across the Mabee Farm grounds and past the historic gardens and a small graveyard, fiber enthusiasts showed off their products in the basement of the main house. There were hand-spun and hand-dyed yarns, alpaca fiber, spinning and weaving demonstrations, wool felt items, woven scarves, re-purposed wools and cashmere, hand-knitted sweaters, shawls and gloves.
Diane Epting settled into a chair next to her husband, John, and pulled a skein of beautiful maroon wool from a bag. She began knitting it into a scarf that appeared already half done and explained how she worked with two slightly different shades of maroon yarn.
“Two strands of yarn give it a better color throughout,” she said. “This is what you call kettle-dyed. We do our own dyeing usually, but requested this color this time.”
The Eptings run Lazy Day Farm, a small hobby farm on Jockey Street in Charlton. They have a dozen Icelandic and Shetland sheep there, along with five rescue alpacas and 20 goats.
With a rigid heddle loom, Diane Epting weaves most of the goodies for sale at their farm — the yarn and scarves and shawls, even placemats and tea towels.
“There’s a bigger market than you’d think for this kind of stuff,” said John Epting. “We did really well last weekend at the Southern Adirondack Fiber Festival in Washington County. And there are a lot of spinners around who do nothing but spin yarn all day. You just have to find them.”