A flat, grassy field in Wilton’s Gavin Park turned into festival grounds Saturday for the town’s ninth annual ParkFest.
The sound of a roaring chainsaw attracted the attention of visitors immediately upon entering the park. In the very first vendor tent, a wood carver bent over a hunk of wood roughly the size of a small bear.
Perhaps the tent could be seen as a metaphor for the town of Wilton, where the rural and developed areas of Saratoga County meet. There are lots of trees in town and lots of homes in which to display carved-up chunks of those trees. The furniture crafted inside the tent would be sold that same evening at the Sawdogs Wood Carving Art Auction.
Further in, Gavin Park offered amusement park rides, food vendors and arts and craft vendors.
The cozy booths of the craft fair made it easy to talk to vendors, and the husband-and-wife team who owns Past to Present were particularly personable. Dale and Lynn Price described their product as “antique button rings.” For each of the rings displayed within their tent — and there were hundreds — there’s also a story.
“Before we made it a ring, this was a perfume button,” Lynn explained as she held up one of their works. Inside the twisted gold border of the setting was a curious patch of velvet.
“In the Victorian era, women would pour a few drops of their perfume onto the velvet so it would last all night. That was in the 1880s, or even the late 1870s,” she said.
Most of her rings were in the $5 to $20 range, although one antique French piece was priced at $70.
Eccentric events and performances filled the afternoon, like a ventriloquist who demonstrated how her wine glass liked to talk to her.
“You are so beautiful,” the glass assured her, as parents in the audience laughed knowingly.
An hour later, there was a pig race, and the MC tried to convince audience members to trade their dogs for more intelligent pets: his 8-week-old piglets.
Among all of the usual signs for fried dough and kettle corn, one food vendor stood out. NYHealthyEats.com offered vegan, kosher, gluten-free and dairy-free options, as well as more traditional fair fare, which is neither kosher, vegan, gluten-free or dairy-free.
Operators Paula and Jon Ricker were yet another husband-and-wife team at the fair, selling an impressive range of menu options, from Philly cheesesteaks to spicy Asian noodles to gyros. An order of the noodles did not disappoint: they were glistening with sesame oil, flavorful and retained a slight crunch.
There were no roller coasters at the festival. Most of the rides seemed to specialize in making occupants as dizzy as possible by spinning them in circles. By 2 p.m., lines had formed for almost every ride.
The wide-open field of Gavin Park offered no protection from the sun.
“I keep saying to myself, I remember what winter was like, I remember what winter was like,” said Antoinette Cornute Booth, sweating a little in the heat.
Along with her brother, Bob Cornute, his wife, Patricia, and their daughter, Antoinette has been bringing her two children to the fair for the past four years. Why their loyalty to ParkFest? For one, the safe environment.
“I know my daughter is roughly in that direction,” she said, “but these are all Wilton people, and I trust them.”
There’s an aesthetic to the fair she enjoys, too.
“I like the old-fashioned things,” Cornute Booth said, “like the dunking booth. They have a dunking booth.”
Her son Jessie then jogged up to show off a neon styrofoam football he’d just won — as it happened, the dunking booth brought out his competitive side.
“I’ve been picking the things to do that cool me off,” he said.
Later, the band Cryin’ Out Loud took to the main stage to perform a greatest hits lineup of pop, R&B, country, disco, Motown and classic rock.
The scheduled finale for ParkFest 2014 was fireworks once darkness had fallen.
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