Kids Almanac: Save the eels, shadowtales, showtunes & signs of spring

Photo of girls rehearsing “It’s a Hard Knock Life” for Half Moon Theatre Company by Jen Kiaba


Years ago when our son was born, I didn’t know any other area parents with a baby, and it suddenly mattered. I felt adrift, separate from the “regular” world, invisible. Over time, as my husband and I met and spent time with other parents and children, these relationships made me feel part of a community. These families helped me feel heard and supported, and the feelings of isolation weren’t so strong anymore. These experiences were the roots of our Hudson Valley Parents website. We never intended for it to happen; it almost created itself.

Building community is exactly what Samantha Sloane Cole is all about. When she couldn’t find free activities to do close to home in Dutchess County with her baby, she started to create them, and people kept returning to join in again, week after week. “We started making friendships and creating the sense of community, or what I call the village mentality,” Samantha recalled. Then she formed the non-profit organization Free Families Forward.

The formula is simple: someone suggests a family activity; Samantha helps that person find a location; recruit volunteers; and secure any donations needed for the event. As volunteers or contributors connect with Samantha, the possibilities for activities expand exponentially. “Our broad mission allows us to take one free activity at a time and grow with the communities that welcome us.”

Volunteer Gloria Summers Darmanin created the upcoming “Families Build a Cupcake” activity: a free event open to all ages. Participants will choose, decorate and eat their cupcakes while socializing with other families. It takes place on Saturday, March 24 from 1 to 3 p.m. at New Baby New Paltz, located at 15 Plattekill Avenue. Gloria explains, “New Baby New Paltz and Free Families Forward are two things I have recently been involved with since becoming a new mother. I’m so happy that we could merge the two together for one delicious event. ‘Live. Laugh. Volunteer.’”

Donna Bruschi – lactation consultant and owner of New Baby New Paltz, where she is hosting the event – adds, “What can I say? I love Gloria, I love cupcakes and I love free events. I am happy to share my space for community events.”

For more information about the cupcake event, Free Families Forward, or to make a donation, call (845) 419-FREE (3733) or visit


Broadway’s greatest hits in Poughkeepsie


If I sing, “It’s A Hard-Knock Life,” and you respond, “For Us,” or I say, “Hakuna Matata” and you instinctively think of the African veldt, you have Broadway in your blood. Imagine a high-energy musical extravaganza that features some of your favorite songs from Broadway classics, performed by Broadway veterans and talented Hudson Valley kids, to which you can bring your family, that takes place right in Poughkeepsie and that will support Half Moon Theatre’s continued work in our community. Put it all together, and you get a “Family Celebration of Broadway.”

This revue of favorite Broadway show tunes, from Wicked to Lion King to Hairspray to Annie and Avenue Q, is suitable for all ages and will benefit Half Moon Theatre’s School of the Arts opening up this fall. Managing director Kristy Grimes says, “This show is great for everyone. It’s wonderful for kids who have never been to a Broadway musical before, because it’s an introduction to its ‘greatest hits.’ And more frequent theatregoers will love hearing all their favorite songs performed live.”

This event takes place at the Cunneen-Hackett Arts Center in Poughkeepsie on Friday, March 23 at 7 p.m., Saturday, March 24 at 2 and 7 p.m. and Sunday, March 25 at 2 p.m. Advance tickets cost $30 for adults and $20 for children and seniors; all prices are $5 more at the door. The Cunneen-Hackett Arts Center is located at 12 Vassar Street in Poughkeepsie. For tickets or more information, call (888) 718-4253 or visit


Mission Improv-able at Newburgh’s Railroad Playhouse


“Thrilled!” “Disgusted!” “Surprised!” No, not reactions to yet another parenting article, but audience responses to a call for emotions at New York City’s Mission: Improv-able at Railroad Playhouse in Newburgh. I took my husband on a surprise date there to see last month’s improv show, and we had a great time yelling out suggestions and laughing at the skits. The performers have to think on their feet all evening, as the presenter outlines a scene for them that also incorporates ideas from the crowd. If you’ve seen Whose Line Is It Anyway? you’ll recognize some of the exercises.

The content is fun and varied and they try to keep it rated PG-10, so it’s appropriate for tweens on up. Another bonus is that Pizza Shop is located right in the same building as the Playhouse: perfect for a convenient dinner before the show and a dessert at intermission. New York City’s Mission: Improv-able’s next show is on Friday, March 23 at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $15 for adults and $10 for students with valid ID. Railroad Playhouse is located at 27 South Water Street in Newburgh. For more information about tickets or the show, call (845) 565-3791 or visit


The Amazing Kreskin at the Ritz


Do your children read your thoughts? Could your kid be the next Amazing Kreskin? It was during the childhood game “Hot and Cold” that Kreskin’s remarkable ability to find hidden objects emerged. His ability to read thoughts expanded, and by his teens he also became nationally recognized in the US as “the World’s Youngest Hypnotist.” The Amazing Kreskin is performing two shows at the Ritz Theater in Newburgh on Saturday, March 24 at 3 and 8 p.m. Kreskin has asked that his check be hidden somewhere in the Ritz Theater Lobby during the show. He will attempt to find it, and if he fails, he will forfeit his fee. That’s putting your money where your mouth is!

I think that this event would be a unique family outing. Tickets for these performances cost $25 each. Fun fact: Frank Sinatra performed at the Ritz Theater well before he was famous, and Lucille Ball made her stage debut here. The Ritz is in the process of renovating and restoring the facility to its former glory. The Ritz Theater is located at 107 Broadway in Newburgh. For tickets or more information, call (845) 784-1199 or visit To learn more about the Amazing Kreskin, go to


Clearwater hosts Family Open Boat Day in Saugerties


The more I expose my children to something new, the more comfortable they feel about it. Clearwater Family Open Boat Day is a great opportunity to expand your family’s comfort zone. It’s an opportunity for families to tour the boat while the sloop is in port, meet the crew and learn about the work involved in running the Clearwater, as well as projects needed to carry out its environmental mission: to defend and restore the Hudson River.

Family Open Boat Day takes place on Saturday, March 24 from 5 to 9 p.m. at Lynch’s Marina at 2 Ferry Street in Saugerties. The event is free and open to the public; a $10 donation is suggested. RSVPs are appreciated but not necessary. Bring an instrument to play along with the jam session or an item to share at the potluck, or just bring yourselves and be a part of this growing community. For more information or to RSVP, call (845) 265-8080 or visit


Shadowtales at Dutchess


The other day when I was walking through the woods, I saw a rabbit standing in front of a candle making shadows of people on a tree.

– Steven Wright


Hand shadows are such a fun and simple activity, I should really learn more than the old two-fingered bunny standby. Come see Rick Adam perform Shadowtales on Saturday, March 24 at 11 a.m. as part of the Dutchess Community College Family Festival Series, and discover the magical simplicity of hand shadows. Using hands and simple cutouts, this program illustrates familiar stories, tales and fables with shadow and light. The audience will learn firsthand how to cast shadows on a wall and create worlds where anything is possible. This event is designed for parents and their children aged 4 to 12 years and is free of charge.

Shadowtales will be held in the James & Betty Hall Theatre at Dutchess Community College, located at 53 Pendell Road in Poughkeepsie. For more information, call (845) 431-8000 or visit To learn more about Rick Adam, go to


Puss in Boots with puppets in Rhinebeck


I love how puppeteers can make sticks and cloth come to life and manipulate them to tell riveting stories. On Saturday, March 24 at 11 a.m. at the Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck, the Spring Valley Puppet Theater will present an original adaptation of the Charles Perrault classic Puss in Boots, infused with merriment and the message that Puss is happiest just being himself. Puss in Boots is part of the Center’s Saturday Morning Family Series, and the show is suitable for all ages.

Tickets cost $7 for children and $9 for adults and seniors. The Center is located at 661 Route 308 in Rhinebeck. For reservations or for more information, call (845) 876-3080 or visit To learn more about the Spring Valley Puppet Theater, visit


Model railroad extravaganza in Kingston


Our family has some simple magnetic trains with a couple of battery-powered engines that seem to work sporadically on their wooden tracks, which we enjoy configuring in different designs. But that’s nothing compared to the elaborate model railroads into which people pour their hearts and souls. Head over to the Kingston Model Train and Hobby Show on Sunday, March 25 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There will be a large-scale garden railroad train display, model train exhibits, railroadiana (new word for me! means railway artifacts), a toy train set raffle and refreshments. It is the largest model train and hobby show in Ulster County.

The show takes place at the Murphy Center, located at 467 Broadway in Kingston. Admission costs $6 for adults and $1 for children under 12. For more information, call (845) 481-4198 or e-mail [email protected]


Spring equinox for families at Poets’ Walk Park


When I’m trying out a new trail that I haven’t been to before, I feel much more confident going with a group – especially when I have my kids with me. On Saturday, March 24 at 12 noon, Holistic Moms Network of Dutchess County is leading a “Spring Equinox Hike” for families at Poets’ Walk Park in Red Hook. If you’ve got spring fever and want to head out for a beautiful outing with your kids, then lace up your kicks, pump up your jogging-stroller tires (regular strollers may struggle with the terrain) and meet in the parking area.

Poets’ Walk is named for the “romantic landscape” designed to celebrate the connection between landscape and poetry. Dress appropriately for the weather, and bring water and snacks. You’ll need to carry your trash back out with you, and there aren’t any bathroom facilities here. This event is free, open to the public and all ages are welcome. Attendees are requested to visit the Holistic Moms Network: Dutchess County Facebook page and let them know that you’re coming.

Poets’ Walk is located on River Road (County Road 103) in Red Hook. For more information, call (845) 876-6450 or e-mail [email protected] To learn more about Holistic Moms Network, visit


Treasured trunks at Minnewaska


Perhaps your kids love The Lorax and they “speak for the trees,” or this month’s focus on maple trees has you hankering to learn more about some of our other tall forest inhabitants. Then Minnewaska State Park Preserve’s “Trees Are for Kids” educational program is for you! This session takes place on Sunday, March 25 from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the Preserve, which is recognized by the Nature Conservancy as one of the “Last Great Places” on Earth. Children will learn how to tell the age of trees, and they’ll be led on a short hike to a forest where they’ll play a game all about trees.

This program is recommended for children between the ages of 6 and 10, accompanied by a parent or guardian. The event is free, but there is a parking fee of $8 per car, and preregistration is required. Minnewaska State Park Preserve is located on Route 44/55 in Gardiner. For more information or to register, call (845) 255-0752 or visit


Ann Guenther’s annual “Signs of spring” walk at Mohonk Preserve


One big reason you should participate in Mohonk Preserve’s 24th annual “Signs of Spring Walk” is because of the guide: naturalist Ann Guenther. I love how she helps me to engage all of my senses to take in the natural world around me, even if it’s just in my driveway. She notices small things with curiosity and interest, and walking with her makes me want not only to know more, but also to wonder more. She knows a lot about Nature, has over 20 years of experience and was the recipient of the 2007 New York State Outdoor Education Educators’ Award. Ann is most interested in helping to cultivate our own connection with the land and animals around us, rather than filling our heads with lots of long names and complicated terms.

This spring walk is free and takes place on Sunday, March 25 from 2 to 4 p.m., beginning at the Spring Farm Trailhead. All ages are welcome on this easy 2.5-mile hike. Children must be accompanied by an adult, and everyone should dress appropriately for the day’s weather. For more information, call (845) 255-0919 or visit


Volunteers needed to study eels and herring with Scenic Hudson


Gustafer Yellowgold and his pet eel Slim delighted families with their recent musical performance in Marlboro. If you want to introduce your children to the actual creature, while helping to preserve the Hudson River’s American eels and herring, join Scenic Hudson’s volunteer ranks for this spring’s local data collection. This is real science that matters. Hands-on volunteer help is needed from youth and adults to help learn more about why these species are declining and what we can do about it. Monitoring takes place from March 24 through June 1. Tasks include counting, weighing and releasing the juvenile glass eels or recording herring sightings in area tributaries.

To participate, you must register to attend Scenic Hudson’s training day at Black Creek Preserve on Saturday, March 24 from 10 a.m. to 12 noon. This event is kid-friendly, but children must be accompanied by an adult. Participants should wear weather-appropriate clothing and sturdy closed-toe shoes like hiking boots, and bring a notepad, water and a snack. Black Creek Preserve is located off Route 9W in Esopus. For more information or to reserve your spot for the training program, call (845) 473-4440, extension 273, or visit


More of the sweet stuff


My family and I adore the Forsyth Nature Center in Kingston. The layout of the space is very manageable for children, the staff is friendly and knowledgeable, the animals are fun to watch and feed, the picnic tables make for an easy snack break and there’s a playground right across the field. So when they offer a public program, we do our best to attend.

Julie Noble, environmental educator at the Center, invites your family to its Maple Sugaring Program on Saturday, March 24 from 11 a.m. to 12 noon. She says, “New York State is the second-largest maple-producing state in America. Forty gallons of that sweet water ‘sap’ from sugar maple trees becomes one decadent gallon of pure maple syrup, and this program demonstrates how.” Topics include the history of maple syrup, sap collection and processing techniques and tree-tapping. My son still talks about the taste test that we did there, and how shocked he was by the differences between the artificial stuff and the real deal.

This program takes place entirely outdoors at the Forsyth “sap house,” so dress accordingly. The Forsyth Nature Center is located at 157 Lucas Avenue in Kingston. For more information or to register, call (845) 339-3053 or visit


Give your kids a chance to learn firsthand about the sugaring experience from tap to table, enjoy a maple pancake breakfast and go on a hayride, all during Hahn Farm’s Maple Pancake Breakfast. Hahn Farm has been in the family since 1774 and is a year-round working farm. The breakfast takes place on March 24 and 25 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and costs $8 for adults, $4 for youth under age 12 and is free for children under age 2. Hayrides run every hour and cost $3 per person. Hahn Farm is located at 1697 Salt Point Turnpike in Salt Point. For more information, call (845) 266-5042 or visit


Wishing for more chainsaw and woodcutting action during maple season? Then head over to Cronin’s Maple Farm for its Maple Weekend, March 24 and 25 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The weekend’s demonstrations include chainsaw carving, educational maple tours, learning about how the sawmill turns logs into lumber and samples of maple treats. A pancake breakfast runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and costs $8 for adults and $4 for kids. Cronin’s Maple Farm is located at 2109 Route 52 in Hopewell Junction. For more information, call (845) 226-3815 or visit


How can you get your entire family to celebrate the bounty of the great outdoors, support a terrific nature program, eat very well and have a great time doing it? By attending Wild Earth’s sixth annual Pancake Breakfast, of course! The menu features local, organic pancakes, eggs, bacon and maple syrup, along with auctions and raffles, too. Live music will be performed by one of my favorite family bands, Dog on Fleas (see John Burdick’s music column in this week’s Almanac), and the fun and upbeat Pamelech Klezmer Orkester. The fundraiser takes place on Sunday, March 25 from 8 a.m. to 12 noon at the Rosendale Recreation Center located at 1055 Route 32. The cost is $10 per person, and family discounts are available. For more information, call (845) 256-9830 or visit


Poetry & Sophie the reading dog at Kingston Library


Dogs are better than human beings because they know but do not tell.

– Emily Dickinson


In preparation for Kingston’s upcoming “E Equals Artists” community arts event in April, the Kingston Library is offering a terrific opportunity for our youth to express their thoughts and feelings about contemporary life, with a chance for some of their work to be showcased in a special installation. Youth ages 6 to 13 are invited to join Carol Meyer, her certified READ dog Sophie and writer Casey Kurtti in “E Equals Artists: Took My Dog,” a poetic dogathon for children. Participants will use Emily Dickinson’s poem, “I started Early – Took My Dog,” as a starting point for reading and writing their own poems.

This free workshop takes place on Wednesday, March 28 from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at the Library. Space is limited and registration is required. For more information or to register, call (845) 331-0507, extension 7. Kingston Library is located at 55 Franklin Street in Kingston and online at



Creating a culture of “do”


Whether you’re a parent, a student, an educator or a community member, you probably have some ideas and opinions about education. Education writer and activist Sam Chaltain invites us to go even deeper by asking ourselves, “What was your most powerful personal experience in a learning community?” Our responses could help inspire and inform educational change for the 21st century.

On Thursday, March 29 at 5:30 p.m., Chaltain will discuss “The Freedom to Learn: Creating a Culture of ‘Do’ instead of a Culture of ‘Know.’” This event is free and open to the public and takes place in the Vassar College Students’ Building second-floor multipurpose room at 124 Raymond Avenue in Poughkeepsie. For more information, call (845) 437-7400, visit or go to

 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. Nice event for kids.

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