Farm Fest, a flagship event in Clifton Park that sees the town's thriving farms open their gates to the public for one September weekend for food, fun and other events, started with a bang on Saturday.
Farm Fest is a longstanding town tradition that has been held for the last 27 years. Held from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, the weekend offers farm-hosted and family friendly tours, demonstrations and entertainment to celebrate the town's agricultural roots.
This year, participating farms and other community organizations included the historic Grooms Tavern, the Clifton Park Halfmoon Public Library, the Vischer Ferry General Store, Bowman Orchards, Riverview Orchards and Shepherd's Hey Farm.
Farm Fest weaves together Clifton Park's most well-known and important agricultural centers, and makes them easily accessible to families in a way that reminds residents that, though the town has in recent years been focused on creating an urbanized center by exit 9 of the Adirondack Northway, much of the town had its roots in farming and agriculture.
"We're celebrating Clifton Park's farming heritage," Councilwoman Amy Standaert said on Saturday afternoon at Riverview Orchards, one of the town's larger farms on Riverview Road that has been in operation since 1944.
Lauding the farm's apple cider and apple cider donuts, Standaert said that events like Farm Fest also serve as a reminder that the town has access to a plethora of locally sourced products and produce that simply can't be found elsewhere, or in large supermarkets.
"It's reminding people that we do have a rich culture in farms, and in our community," she said.
On Saturday, just an hour after Farm Fest events had officially commenced, Riverview Orchards was flooded with families exploring the corn maze on site, checking out the animals available for adoption at a county animal shelter booth, or browsing inside the orchard's farm store, which was flooded with people waiting to purchase freshly baked cider donuts.
Riverview Orchard's owner Isabel Prescott, while taking a break from the frenzy coordinating work in the store, said that she had lived on the farm her entire life, and that Riverview Orchards had been participating in Farm Fest from the start.
"I love being involved because I want families to come out and see and enjoy life on the farm," Prescott said.
On Saturday, with the packed store and busy farm, Prescott noted that while it was a particularly hectic day, weekends during the fall were typically hectic anyway. Farms like her's, she added, bring not only fall fun to the area, but also much needed open space and a consistently local food source.
"We're happy that we have as many people as we do," she said.
A few minutes away on Sugar Hill Road, Bowman's Orchard was as packed as Riverview Orchards. Dozens of children and families took advantage of the farm's multitude of animals to see, playground equipment to spend time on, and a long line of cars stretched down the road to the farm with people waiting to pick their own apples.
Monica Sanchez, of Rexford, was at Bowman Orchards with her son, Jayden, 5. The two were spending their afternoon with the goats on the orchard property. It was the first year that Sanchez had brought her son, and definitely wouldn't be the last, she said.
"There's just no where else were you might get to see these animals up close, or do things like this on a farm," she said.