Under the bright sun and blue skies at Bradley Park, residents of the Village of Walden celebrated and came together for the 35th Annual Walden Harvest Fest with live music, bouncy houses, food trucks and more than 90 vendors to celebrate their community.
The harvest festival weekend kicked off with the showing of the movie Minions: The Rise of Gru for the village children and their families in the indoor gym at Wooster Grove Park. The movie would have been held outside if not for the wind and cool temperatures. On Saturday morning, vendor booths, bouncy houses, food trucks and first responder vehicles made their way to their places at Bradley Park and began to set up in anticipation of the many residents coming.
Starting a little after 11 a.m., Walden Mayor John Ramos welcomed those initially gathered with several opening remarks sharing his thanks for Recreation Director Mike Bliss, Village Manager John Revella, Debbie Robb of the Walden Harvest Fest Committee and Walden Community Council and all those who played a part in the festival.
The singing of the national anthem and presentation of the colors soon followed after and kicked off the festivities. “Everybody, there’s a hundred vendors around here, please, have fun and have a great day,” said Ramos.
As visitors made their way into the park, they were able to grab booklets that had the schedule of the events for the day along with all the vendors, various local businesses represented, a message from the mayor and tribute for Robb by her family and additional village information. Several rows of vendors and community organizations such as Walden Baptist Church, Wallkill Valley Federal, Walden Savings Bank, Ace Hardware, Traveling Wine and many more opened up for business. On the hillside, bouncy houses were enjoyed by children; and heading up the hill at the park, residents and vendors purchased local cooked food from food trucks such as Empanada O Nada, Lemon Love and Carmella’s Cucina.
Gina Somma, owner of Milk Club Boutique, made her debut as a vendor after first operating on Etsy, an online marketplace for handmade or vintage products.“The crowd is great. The other vendors are awesome. Everybody’s very friendly,” Somma said. “It’s really nice to see everybody come out and support each other, especially after everything that, you know, everyone’s been through.”
At one of the many booths at the festival, Keith Hunter of the Walden Rotary Club manned the frog jumping booth where kids and adults had the opportunity to play a frog-inspired game and win some prizes to take home with them. For Hunter, he is glad to be back seeing smiles once again.
“You could see the look of gratitude on everyone’s faces to be free, and to be together again. And Lord knows, we’ve suffered enough,” said Hunter. “It’s time to do healing and say hello to our neighbors. Engage in all of, you know, all these social activities.”
While this may be the 35th annual harvest festival for Walden, this festival will mark Bliss’s 24th festival. Over the course of the day, Bliss made his rounds to the various vendors and other activities, and it was nothing short of positive.
“Everybody’s ecstatic with the setup and how everything’s going,” Bliss said. “I tell food vendors, bring a lot, because every year we’ve had this, in its entirety since we moved to Bradley Park, every food vendor has sold out, every day. I thank every person who shows up here.”
For the many festivals that Bliss has been a part of, the work is all worthwhile when children who come to the festival can enjoy it in a special way.
“Everything for a child at our event is free, and I would love to see that for eternity here in the Village of Walden, when it’s out of my hands, and I move on,” Bliss said. “No kid should ever be left out of anything. And that’s my vision. And that’s, that’s what I believe in. And all I do. And I think that should hold true in this event forever.”
Similar to Bliss, Robb has been involved in the organization and setup for the festival for the past 22 years and was happy to see the turnout over the course of the day. “I’ve lived in Walden my whole life. And I went to the first Walden day. And this festival means a lot to me,” Robb said. “ It’s just a happy day for me, for me and my family.”
Rhonda Lake, one of the many volunteers at the festival, has been a lifelong resident of Walden and remembered when the festival was held in the village square. As the festival grew and grew over the years, the festival moved to Bradley Park. While she has not been to the festival for several years due to other commitments and with COVID, she has been able to attend and now brings her children to experience all that Walden has to offer.
“It’s a great community day for everybody to come out. It is nice to be able to come out and basically be in the human world again, and you know, seeing people be able to get out with their families and do things,” said Lake. “Honestly, when you think about Walden, just think community. That’s the best thing that I can ever say about Walden.”