Kids Almanac: Get a job, fly a kite & make way for Pet Palooza, Cupcake Festival & Phools

The Gardiner Cupcake Festival will be held at Wright’s farm this Saturday (Photo by Clever Cupcakes)

When I saw Fa-Mulan, the title of Cocoon Theatre’s latest production, the first thing I thought of was Mulan of Disney fame. I wasn’t alone; Ada Graham-Lowengard, 12-year-old homeschooler and local actor playing the title role, can relate: “I had heard the name Mulan, and I knew it was a Disney film, but other than that I had no clue what it was. I was really excited to do the play when I heard that she was disguising as a boy to be in the army; I’d read a story similar to that a few years ago and I’d really liked it.”

Written in the sixth century, this story is both timeless and inspiring. When Mulan’s father is called to join the army, Mulan decides to disguise herself as a man and go in his place. Eleven years later, she returns home and reveals her true gender, to the shock of her fellow soldiers. I asked Ada how the role of this legendary Chinese heroine compares to other work that she has done in the past. “She’s pretty similar to most of the roles I’ve played. I usually play this kind of intellectual and nice character: someone you would want to be around, and I like playing that type.”

This original play is written and directed by Marguerite San Millan and includes live percussion, classical Chinese music, mime and dance. What does Graham-Lowengard have in her sights to do in the future? “I really want to try doing a musical.”

The Ballad of Fa-Mulan will be performed on May 18 and 19 at 7 p.m., and on May 20 at 3 p.m. Tickets cost $10 and the play is suitable for all ages. Cocoon Theatre is located at 6384 Mill Street in Rhinebeck. For tickets or more information, call (845) 876-6470 or visit



Celebrate the Monolith’s 50th this Saturday at Opus 40 in High Woods


There are certain unique spots here in the Hudson Valley that I consider must-sees for families, such as Opus 40 and the Storm King Art Center. With our various commitments each week, I find it hard actually to get there. So when these places host special family-friendly events, it’s the perfect draw to share them with the kids.

It’s opening weekend at Opus 40, and its keepers are hosting a “50th Anniversary Celebration of the Raising of the Monolith.” Opus 40 is an outdoor sculpture gallery of walkways, ramps and carved pieces created by artist and former Bard professor Harvey Fite. All of the walls, walkways and sculptures were done entirely by hand, and raising the central nine-ton monolith was accomplished by adapting principles of the ancient Egyptians to hoist it into place. Fite named his site Opus 40 because he figured that it would take 40 years to complete. He died in an accident in 1976, 37 years after beginning the work. Fun Fact: the rock band Mercury Rev produced a song called “Opus 40” referencing this site.

The Monolith celebration takes place on Saturday, May 19 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The event is free and open to the public, but donations are welcome. Children’s book illustrator and author Iza Trapani will do a reading at 11:30 a.m. At 1:30 p.m., Harvey Fite’s stepson Jonathan Richards, who grew up at Opus 40 and witnessed the raising of the monolith, will give a presentation about it. Then, from 2:30 to 5 p.m., there will be square dancing with caller Sandy Corey.

Opus 40 is located at 50 Fite Road in Saugerties. For more information, call (845) 246-9922 or visit


Storm King Art Center in Mountainville hosts kite workshop this Sunday


Go fly a kite! No, I’m not telling you to leave. On Sunday, May 20, Storm King Art Center is hosting a “Kite-Making and Flying Workshop” in Storm King’s South Fields. Is it possible to read these words from Mary Poppins without humming along? “Let’s go fly a kite/Up to the highest height!/Let’s go fly a kite and send it soaring…” Or perhaps you’ve been looking for some motivation to gear up for another week. Try this Winston Churchill quote: “Kites rise highest against the wind, not with it.”

Whatever it takes, get your family out to Storm King on Sunday, May 20 from 1 to 4 p.m. This kite event is a collaboration with the Free Style Arts Association from Queens. Its mission is to connect the public with art in spontaneous, creative ways. All materials will be provided.

I wondered where this Storm King name came from in the first place, since the Art Center is named after the nearby mountain. According to the Marist Environmental History Project, “The name Storm King was coined by 19th-century writer Nathaniel Parker Willis. Noting that the mountain was the tallest in the region and an accurate predictor of stormy weather when early morning clouds covered its peak, he felt there could be no better name than Storm King.”

Entrance fees to Storm King are $12 for adults; $10 for senior citizens aged 65 and older; $8 for students; free for members and children under age 5. Storm King is located at 1 Museum Road in New Windsor. For more information, call (845) 534-3115 or visit



Munch out at Gardiner Cupcake Festival this Saturday


The Gardiner Cupcake Festival is in its fourth year, and this year it takes place at Wright’s Farm. Fun Fact: What do cupcakes and Wright’s Farm have in common? They’ve both been around for over one hundred years! Fun Fact #2: What’s the difference between a cupcake and a muffin? A cupcake is generally considered more of a “sweet,” and a muffin more of a “savory.”

If you and your family like cupcakes, or frosting, or both, you should head over to the festival. Maresa Volante of Sweet Maresa’s Cupcakes, based in New Paltz, is looking forward to this year’s event with some amazing vegan offerings: “I’m very happy to be at the Gardiner Cupcake Festival, stocked with tons of decadent cupcakes made with healthy fats and organic ingredients. Treat your kids to one of our cupcakes (like Coconut Cream!) made with heart-healthy coconut oil. No need to worry about factory-farmed butter or shortening; we wouldn’t touch those with a ten-foot pole – only pure, good ingredients, whipped into sweet little cakes for you and your family.”

There will also be live music, a cupcake-eating contest, a bouncy house, cupcake-decorating, face-painting, hair-braiding, pony rides, an amateur cupcake-baking contest, a local racecar exhibit, helicopter rides and wagon rides, too. The Gardiner Cupcake Festival takes place on Saturday, May 19 from noon to 6 p.m. Admission to the Gardiner Cupcake Festival is free. There is a suggested $1 per car donation to the volunteer Fire Department for helping with parking.

Wright’s Farm is located at 699 Route 208 in Gardiner. For more information, call (845) 255-5300, visit or check Facebook for the Gardiner Cupcake Festival or Sweet Maresa’s Upstate Cupcakes.



Arm-of-the-Sea Theater performs at Earth & Water Festival in Montgomery this Saturday


Looking for a festival that’s both fun and informative? An event that is engaging for both adults and children? Festivities with free admission and free parking? Then you need to get to the fifth annual Earth & Water Festival. Organized by the Orange County Water Authority (OCWA), this event features a wide variety of environmentally conscious citizens, groups and businesses from the Hudson Valley. In addition to the Green Expo’s booths and exhibits, there will also be a Farmers’ Market and festival food vendors.

Another terrific component of this event is the Children’s Activity Area. Children can pick up a “Passport to Fun” to do free activities, get it stamped by vendors, then pick out a free prize. The Snakeman will be on hand with snakes for kids to hold and look at. There will also be games, crafts, educational activities, information for families, live music and entertainment all day.

One highlight for all ages is the Arm-of-the-Sea Theater’s 3 p.m. performance of At the Turning of the Tide. I asked Carl Welden, who has been a puppet wrangler with the company since 1997, about the show: “At the Turning of the Tide is a tale of the natural and human history of the Hudson River Estuary. It’s about the lifeforms in the river and lifeforms using the river, such as for industrial and commercial use.”

Founded by Marlena Marallo and Patrick Wadden, Arm-of-the-Sea is in its 30th year and is the region’s oldest puppet company. I think that its life-sized masked characters, costumes and music create a wonderful opportunity for Earth & Water Festival families to learn more about our river’s freshwater and saltwater dynamic.

Welden enjoys doing these performances as much as people like watching them: “I just love this medium for storytelling. It’s a place where all of the artistic disciplines find a home: sculpture, writing, puppetry, movement, music…It’s a blend of science and poetry, ultimately.”

The Earth & Water Festival takes place on Saturday, May 19 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Thomas Bull Memorial Park, rain or shine. Thomas Bull Memorial Park is located at 94 Grove Street in Montgomery. For more information about the Festival, call (845) 615-3868 or visit To learn more about Arm-of-the-Sea, visit or the troupe’s Facebook page.


Phools’ Parade returns to New Paltz this Saturday


The artist Pablo Picasso said, “The purpose of Art is to create enthusiasm.” That sentiment has infused New Paltz’s Phools’ Parade from the beginning. The Phools’ Parade is a public procession of art. It is open to all artists, musicians, theatre and puppet troupes and students of any age. According to Phools’ Parade founders and organizers Eileen Hedley, Melanie Cronin and G. Steve Jordan, “The goal is a fantastic family and community event celebrating the creative spark in all of us.” All ages and skill levels are welcome and encouraged to get as artsy and creative as possible, such as dressing like a favorite artist, displaying wearable art, making a puppet or even making a float.

The Phools’ Parade takes place in New Paltz on Saturday, May 19 at 2 p.m. The route begins at the New Paltz Middle School at 196 Main Street, continues down Main Street, turns south onto Plattekill Avenue and finishes at Hasbrouck Park. After the Parade, the festivities continue at Hasbrouck Park with an awards ceremony, food, crafts by Macaroni Kids and music by Ratboy, Jr. and the Sweet Clementines. For more information, call (845) 255-6724, visit or check out the Phools’ Parade page on Facebook.



Summer job workshop for teens this Saturday at Elting Library in New Paltz


To me, summer in the Hudson Valley means swimming at Split Rock, Young People’s Concerts at Maverick and homegrown tomatoes. For teens looking to earn some disposable extra income or save for college, it means summer jobs. The Elting Memorial Library in New Paltz announces new offerings to optimize teens’ chances for summer employment. First, plan to attend the “How to Improve Your Chances of Getting a Summer Job” workshop on Saturday, May 19 from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Library. Led by local entrepreneur Julia Robbins, topics for job-seeking teens will include “What do you need to know before applying for a job?” “What type of job is right for you?” and “How can you best present yourself to a potential employer?”

Following this workshop, the library intends to create a Teen Summer Jobs Information Book where potential employers can list and describe working opportunities for teens, and teens can submit a Job Wanted profile for potential employers to consider. Finally, teens can meet potential employers at the Job Fair on Saturday, June 2 from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Library. These Teen Summer Job resources and events are free and open to the public.

The Elting Library is located at 93 Main Street in New Paltz. For more information, call (845) 255-5030 or visit


Open House at John Burroughs’ Slabsides this Saturday


I like hikes, I like history and I like proximity. Famed naturalist John Burroughs’ rustic 1895 Slabsides cabin accomplishes all three and has quickly become a favorite spot for me and the kids. Whenever we stroll the fabulous grounds or take a peek in the cabin windows, we see a detail that we missed the last time. But twice a year, the cabin opens up, and now we can’t wait to check out the inside.

Naturalist, writer, educator and New Paltz Times columnist Richard Parisio teaches about John Burroughs. He shared with me Burroughs’ basic premise: All that Burroughs had and ever would have, every person can have as well. All that is needed is to reach out and touch it, for it is right in front of us – these satisfactions that come from opening our minds, hearts and senses to the natural world.

I asked why this historic site, and the man who built it, matter to children and families today. “These days, cut off as we are in so many ways from the simple life in nature Burroughs recommended, families need to go outdoors together to rediscover it. Children only need to be exposed to places like Slabsides, and the sanctuary that surrounds it, for them to experience nature for themselves, and maybe in the process help their parents recover a bit of their own childhood sense of wonder.”

I know that “wonder” is exactly how I feel any time I walk around Slabsides, looking up at those majestic shelves of rock, hearing the trickle of water along the rocky connector trail or experiencing the peaceful grandeur of Sanctuary Pond. What is Slabsides all about, anyway? In John Burroughs’ own words from Far and Near: “I was offered a tract of wild land, barely a mile from home, that contained a secluded nook and a few acres of level, fertile land shut off from the vain and noisy world by a wooded precipitous mountain…and built me a rustic house there, which I call ‘Slabsides,’ because its outer walls are covered with slabs. I might have given it a prettier name, but not one more fit, or more in keeping with the mood that brought me thither…Life has a different flavor here. It is reduced to simpler terms; its complex equations all disappear.” It still feels true today: just moments from Route 9W, and I’m surrounded by pristine forest.

Spring Slabsides Day takes place on Saturday, May 19 from noon to 4:30 p.m. Dan Payne presents “John Burroughs: Conservationist” at noon. Additional activities include cabin tours beginning at 1 p.m., self-guided trail walks and a Pond House viewing of the DVD “John Burroughs: A Naturalist in the Industrial Age” by Dr. Lynn Spangler, as well as refreshments. Admission is free, but donations are always welcomed.

Slabsides is located on John Burroughs Drive, off Floyd Ackert Road in West Park. For more information, call (212) 769-5169 or visit



Grenadilla & New Raspberry Bandits perform for kids in Rosendale this Sunday


I’m going to bottom-line this for you: Debbie Lan’s music is awesome, and you and your kids should go hear her group Grenadilla (rhymes with sarsaparilla). [email protected] Ann Hutton describes the music this way: “Grenadilla – the South African name for passionfruit – puts out rhythms and harmonies of a distinctly ‘township’ vibe, its founder, songwriter Debbie Lan, having been born and raised in Cape Town.” Sure, there’s an international flair, and the songs are playful, affirming and upbeat; but for me, what it comes down to is how much I enjoy listening to them. Her lyrics are a powerful celebration of life, friendship, connection and joyfulness – a reflection of the possibilities of love and growth that surround us everyday.

Grenadilla’s newest CD Can’t Wait is the winner of a Parents’ Choice Gold Award. “It’s family-friendly music, for sure; but it’s definitely not just for little kids,” says Debbie, a mother and teaching artist who lives in the mid-Hudson Valley, as do her bandmates. “So many parents who’ve bought our CD tell us they love it so much, they listen to it in their car themselves – even when their kids aren’t around.”

Grenadilla is teaming up with the New Raspberry Bandits for a wonderful all-ages concert at the Rosendale Theatre on Sunday, May 20 at 11 a.m. The New Raspberry Bandits are the new band from Vanessa and Jamie Saft. Our son loves the rock sounds of their “Big Trucks” song, and our daughter gets excited hearing the word “princess” in the lyrics of “LULA.” The New Raspberry Bandits’ new CD Little Birds and Big Trucks is out soon on Veal Records.

Tickets for this double feature are $5 each or $10 per family. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Rosendale Food Pantry. The Rosendale Theatre is located at 408 Main Street in Rosendale. For more information call the Theatre at (845) 658-8989 or visit To learn more about the musicians, visit and


Cunneen-Hackett Theatre in Poughkeepsie screens Louder than a Bomb this Saturday


In March, I wrote about the Poughkeepsie students’ Hip Hop Theater performance at the Bardavon, a culmination of the two-week residency with Hip Hop’s Playback Theater NYC. I was moved by the stories of these youth who connected with their inner voices through this program, and I admired their courage to take that self-expression to the stage. So I was thrilled to learn that the film Louder than a Bomb delves into these same themes and is having a showing in Poughkeepsie.

Louder than a Bomb, held annually in Chicago, is the world’s largest youth poetry slam. This documentary follows the youth on four teams, giving us a window into their lives and how it reflects in their poetry: “This is not ‘high school poetry’ as we often think of it. This is language as a joyful release: irrepressibly talented teenagers obsessed with making words dance. How and why they do it – and the community they create along the way – is the story at the heart of this inspiring film.”

To learn more, I contacted Neil Johnson, the producer of the Sleuth Pro Film Series, which is presenting the film at the Cunneen-Hackett Center. I asked him how he heard about the film and what motivated him to arrange for a showing: “When I saw it, it touched me. I knew this was a film I wanted to bring back to the community.” Johnson said that the stories stayed with him – like Nova, who agonized about going away to college wondering if her beloved brother with autism would forget about her; or Nate, who became an inspirational leader among his peers against all odds, having drug-addicted parents and growing up in the ghetto. Could Johnson relate to any of this? Was it personal? What was different?

“I was born and raised here in Poughkeepsie. I was a ghetto kid growing up in the projects with a loving mother and family who exposed me to art, to learn about the world beyond home.” The key to the outside world for young Neil was art. And his nickname Sleuth came from his constant questioning, “Why?”

After school, Johnson traveled and returned to Poughkeepsie, passionate about the power of poetry, art and music to bring people together. An independent producer, he hosts dynamic, uplifting shows in his Sleuth Pro Art Studio and around the area. He arranged a screening of this film as yet another medium to inform, educate and inspire area families and youth right in Poughkeepsie and beyond.

Louder than a Bomb is showing at 8 and 11 p.m. on Saturday, May 19. Tickets cost $10. The Cunneen-Hackett Theatre Building is located at 12 Vassar Street in Poughkeepsie. For more information, call (845) 486-4571 or visit To learn more about the Sleuth Pro Film Series, the Sleuth Pro Art Studio or to donate, contact Neil Johnson at (845) 705-9995 or [email protected] Information about the film can be found at



Huguenot Street in New Paltz, Washington’s HQ in Newburgh offer Heritage Weekend discounts

When you live in the Hudson Valley, you can find direct links to the past. I get complacent that “history happened here” and often tend to take it for granted. Sometimes I forget that some of the stone houses that I drive by all the time in New Paltz are 300 years old, or that George Washington actually spent time in Newburgh. And I don’t think that I ever even thought about the people behind the name of Montgomery Place. New York Heritage Weekend, May 19 and 20, is a great way to introduce or reconnect us to some historic treasures right here, as well as throughout New York State. This weekend will appeal to a lot of families because it’s such a great time of year to go exploring, both indoors and out, and it’s easy on the budget: Some historic sites are discounting or waiving tour fees, as well as hosting special events.

Quick: What’s the oldest street in America with its original houses? Huguenot Street in New Paltz. There’s lots more to learn here during opening weekend. In honor of New York Heritage Weekend, Historic Huguenot Street is offering two-for-the-price-of-one deluxe guided tours on a first-come, first-served basis. Tours are offered at 11 a.m., 1 and 3 p.m. Just mention New York Heritage Weekend to take advantage of the discount. The offices for Historic Huguenot Street are located at 88 Huguenot Street in New Paltz.

George Washington spent just over 16 months commanding troops from his headquarters at 84 Liberty Street in Newburgh. Learn more about life here during the 1780s with a tour of the authentically furnished house. Montgomery Place, located on Annandale Road in Red Hook, is hosting free tours from 11 a.m. to the last tour at 3 p.m. Bring a picnic; the grounds themselves are worth visiting on their own.

For more information about any of these places, about New York Heritage Weekend or to discover many other Hudson Valley historic sites celebrating this weekend, call (518) 473-3835 or visit



Magic show with Domino the Great this Saturday in Kingston


Before I heard about the comedy magician Domino the Great, I thought that magicians just played to audiences of all ages. But Domino is a professional children’s entertainer and magician, and his shows are specifically designed for children. It’s what he does. He knows how to engage them with humor, fun and riveting tricks in a style that kids love – especially kids aged 5 years and up. Make a plan to take your family to the Kingston Library’s Super Saturday performance of Domino the Great. The show is free and takes place on Saturday, May 19 at 10:30 a.m.

The Kingston Library is located at 55 Franklin Street in Kingston. For more information, call (845) 331-0507, extension 7, or visit To learn more about the magician, visit



Pet shows this Saturday in High Falls and Rhinebeck

When I heard about this weekend’s pet events, I started thinking about dog shows, which reminded me of the dog show mockumentary Best in Show, which made me laugh out loud remembering Harlan Pepper and his hysterical nut list recitation: “Peanut. Hazelnut. Cashew nut. Macadamia nut…” Luckily for us, these events are open to more than just dogs. So pack up your kids and your fur kids (or feathered or otherwise) and check out these two shows, both on Saturday, May 19.

The High Falls Pet Show is open to all restrainable pets and offers 12 areas of competition, including “Pet/Owner Lookalike,” “Most Unusual Pet” and a “Kids Only” category. The entry fee is $4 per pet. The Pet Show takes place in High Falls at the High Falls Community Church yard, on Mohonk Road near the firehouse. Registration begins at 10 a.m., and the special competitions run from 11 a.m. to approximately 1 p.m.

If you’re looking for a larger event or want to make it a double-header, head over to the Hudson Valley Pet Palooza at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds, located at 6550 Spring Brook Avenue in Rhinebeck. Held annually since 2009, Pet Palooza raises money for Partnership for Animals Needing Transition (PANT), Bernese Mountain Dog Rescue, the Catskill Animal Sanctuary and Lucky Orphan Horse Rescue. Admission is $10 and children under 12 are free. Leashed animals are welcome. A rabies clinic and microchipping are available on-site, as well as a petting zoo, dog agility and acrobatic demonstrations, an animal communicator, live music, food, vendors and free face-painting.

For more information about the High Falls Pet Show, call (845) 399-8981 or visit To learn more about the Hudson Valley Pet Palooza, call (845) 229-7739 or visit




Erica Chase-Salerno lives, loves and laughs in New Paltz with her husband Mike and their two children: the inspirations behind She can be reached at [email protected]

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  1. Thanks Erica great job as always! There is so much happening in the HV this weekend. Phillies Bridge Farm will be holding our Spring Open House this Saturday from 11am-2pm. This event is free and will include children’s activities, a farmers market, plant sale, farm tour and more! In addition to plants, items for sale will likely include fresh greens, eggs, sausage, chicken, beef, cheese, pickles, and preserves. There will also be free samples from our friends at Brykill Farm and Dressel Farm!

  2. It’s too bad such a great event at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds is hosting such an exploitative and cruel thing as a petting zoo. I won’t be going because of this.

  3. Thank you so much for this wonderful roundup of what’s going on in the area this weekend. A lot!

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