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Mabee Farm fall festival draws massive Sunday crowd in Rotterdam

Mabee Farm fall festival draws massive Sunday crowd in Rotterdam

Mabee Farm fall festival draws massive Sunday crowd in Rotterdam
Justin Brown and his son, Justin of Broadalbin, watch blacksmith John Ackner make and tell stories of nail making.
Photographer: MARC SCHULTZ/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER

Hundreds of years of history came to life on Sunday at the Mabee Farm historic site for Schenectady County’s annual Fall Foliage Festival.

Dozens of families, many with children, flooded the grounds of the Mabee Farm in Rotterdam Junction for an annual fall festival that brings in a variety of local organizations to participate, but is hosted by the Schenectady County Historical Society.

The fall festival on the farm site is an opportunity for people who live in the area, but might not know much about the deep historic roots right in their backyards, to be educated and come into direct contact with history in a way they might not have been able to before, said Michael Diana, programs and education manager for the Schenectady County Historical Society.

“This is a large-scale, family oriented event, so that parents, kids, really people of all ages can come out here and enjoy the historic property, the historic house and the special activities that we have going on,” he said.

The farm house on the site is, according to historians present on Sunday who were conducting tours on the grounds, the oldest house in the Mohawk Valley.

More: Photos from Sunday's Mabee Farm Fall Foliage Festival

The farm was originally settled by Daniel Janse VanAntwerpen in the late 1600s, who established it as a fur trading post to meet Native American traders prior to reaching Schenectady. 

In 1705 the property, said tour guides, the property was sold to Jan Mabee and it was handed down to generations of Mabees for 300 years. 

The site itself comprises of a 17th century Dutch House, an inn, one brick building, a Dutch barn built in 1760, an English barn and the Mabee family cemetery.

The Schenectady County Historical Society owns and maintains the property as a museum and has further developed the site for educational and community purposes.

While history die-hards often take advantage of the events and activities offered by the historical society, the fall festival is the organization’s chance to draw a much larger crowd than usual, Diana said.

“This is definitely more geared toward a general audience,” he said. “We want people to at least be exposed to, if not specifics about history, a general historic atmosphere. Sometimes, that’s what you can do with some groups of people.”

He pointed out that the festival always marks the wrap-up of the organization’s major events for the year.

“This is kind of our big fall event,” he said. “This is our last festival of the year.”

Diana’s assertion that the event was a major one for the historical association could be proven simply by walking onto the site. 

Lines snaked around the farm for pony rides and horse-drawn carriage rides. People also had the chance to ride in a small boat with friends on the river, walk through the historical house and buildings, and visit a plethora of other vendors who set up shop on the site, turning the festival into a makeshift farmer’s market as well.

More: Photos from Sunday's Mabee Farm Fall Foliage Festival

Families carting coolers and other picnic supplies were able to set up on the grounds and listen to live music. Amy and John Duane, from Glenville, brought their children, Harper, 10, and Emma, 8, along with friends of their children to the festival.

“I’m most excited to get my face painted,” Emma Duane said, sitting with her family at their makeshift picnic site.

“What a good day we got for this. It was supposed to rain I think, but we really couldn’t have asked for better weather to bring them here for this," Amy Duane said as the family prepared to wait in the long face-painting line.

Other activities on the site included a wild-bird sanctuary demonstration, a pig and sheep dog-herding display, and even an opportunity for children to create their own wooden birdhouse, with help from their parents to nail the small wooden boxes together.

Other families took advantage of the more educational aspects of the day going on around them. 

On the site in two smaller historic buildings was a carpentry display, and a blacksmith display.

Guilderland native and maintenance man for the Schenectady County Historical Society John Ackner, who, on his off-time, spends hours blacksmithing, was demonstrating a nail-making technique on Sunday. He has been blacksmithing for at least three decades, he said on Sunday.

People crammed into the small wooden building to watch Ackner pounds long rods of metal that were glowing bright orange into fine, sharp nails.

“And we thought do-it-yourself now was hard,” Mallory Evans, 30, of Scotia, said as she watched Ackner work.

“If you’ve ever heard the term, ‘too many irons in the fire,’ that comes from blacksmithing,” he said to the dozen people gathered around him in the as he handed out the nails he had just crafted to a young audience member as a keepsake.

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