Kids Almanac: Celebrate George Clinton and change a diaper for the world record

Portrait of George Clinton by Ezra Ames.

“A Father of New York and Founder of Our Nation”


If governor George Clinton were on an 18th-to-19th-century version of the professional network LinkedIn, his “Connections” would include George Washington (helped Washington defend the Hudson during the Revolutionary War, even named two of his children after George and Martha Washington), Thomas Jefferson (served as his vice president) and James Madison (served as his vice president, too). Clinton was sworn in as the first governor of New York State in 1777 – right in Kingston, when it was the state capital. He also held the position of Ulster County Clerk for 53 years.

You can get a feel for Clinton’s politics at the Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum in Poughkeepsie, which has a display of Clinton arguing in favor of the Bill of Rights against his Federalist friend Alexander Hamilton (fun fact: New York State ratification of the Constitution happened right in Poughkeepsie!). Governor Clinton died on April 20, 1812, and he is buried in the churchyard of the Old Dutch Church in Kingston.

In honor of the 200th anniversary of his passing, Kingston is hosting activities on Friday, April 20 to celebrate his life and his influence in history. “This is as much a celebration of our history and our heritage as it is of George Clinton, a man who served with distinction as our governor and later as our country’s vice president,” says Nina Postupack, Ulster County clerk. Postupack invites you to take your kids to Academy Green Park, where the day begins with an 11:30 a.m. parade of local students and veterans. While you’re there, check out the statue of Clinton at the Park. Dr. William Rhoads, Professor emeritus at SUNY-New Paltz, tells me that prior to its 1950 installation at the Park, the statue originally stood over the entrance to an office building on Broadway in Manhattan. The parade concludes at the Old Dutch Church with a laying of ceremonial wreaths.

While adult history buffs take in the “Exploring the Life of George Clinton” lecture by John P. Kaminski at the Ulster County Courthouse at 1:30 p.m., you and your kids can do your own exploration of Clinton’s life and the exhibits at the Persen House and Senate House State Historic Site. Dr. Rhoads also challenges kids to take a closer look at the Clinton monument in the churchyard, explaining, “In 1861, Benson Lossing, an historian from Dutchess County, sketched the monument and then described other carvings on the monument: bundled rods or fasces, a serpent on a staff, the winged caduceus of Mercury (the staff of an ancient herald) and a Roman sword crossed by a saber and tied together with a scarf. These details added to the sense that here was buried a great commander and leader, comparable to his ancient Roman predecessors. Perhaps the kids would like to see if the carvings described by Lossing long ago remain visible on the monument today.” Refresh yourselves at the conclusion of the day’s festivities at the 3 p.m. reception held at the headquarters of the Daughters of the American Revolution, located at 3 Crown Street behind the courthouse.

Now, if you’re in Poughkeepsie, you can explore Clinton history, too. I already mentioned the Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum, but Dr. Rhoads also told me about a large mural depicting the Ratification Convention of 1788. “The mural shows delegates from around the state meeting in the Dutchess County Courthouse to discuss ratification of the US Constitution. The mural was painted for the Poughkeepsie Post Office by artist Gerald Foster in 1938, under the direct supervision of president Franklin D. Roosevelt. Governor George Clinton is one of the most prominent figures in the mural, as he is shown shaking hands with Alexander Hamilton to signify a compromise between the two men that resulted in New York’s ratification of the Constitution and the inclusion of the Bill of Rights.

“Your young readers may be fascinated by Gerald Foster’s addition of a mouse gazing at the handshake from a hole in the baseboard of the courtroom. No historical document mentions such a mouse being present. When I asked the artist why he included the mouse, Foster answered that he hoped ‘it would delight any schoolchildren’ who might come to see the portrayal of a great event in New York’s history.”

Academy Green Park is located at 238 Clinton Avenue in Kingston. The Old Dutch Church is located at 272 Wall Street in Kingston. The address for the Poughkeepsie Post Office is 55 Mansion Street in Poughkeepsie. For more information about the Clinton anniversary events, call (845) 331-7380 or e-mail [email protected].


 “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” fundraiser this Saturday in Poughkeepsie


Family Services’ Crime Victims Assistance Program is holding its second annual “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” at Marist College this Saturday, April 21. I was so curious about this event: a fundraiser where men walk in high heels? For one mile? I had to learn more.

“Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” began in 2001 and has grown into a worldwide movement. The purpose of the walk, based on the idea that you can’t understand another person’s experience until you’ve walked a mile in his/her shoes, is to raise awareness of gender-based violence and to get people talking about it.

I inquired about the relevance of this event for children, and I was shocked by what I learned. In 2011, Family Services’ Crime Victims Assistance Program served 1,268 victims of crime in Dutchess County, and 424 of those were victims of sexual assault. Out of the 424 victims of sexual assault, 176 of the victims were children. As horrifying as these statistics are, they are useful to help give us a sense of reality.

Violence against women often means that children are impacted. Many abusers were also themselves abused as children. Anne Lee, chief executive officer of Darkness to Light, an organization whose mission is to end sexual abuse, explains, “We need to mobilize both individuals and communities to talk about the people who are abusing and the effect it is having on all of us. We must create opportunities to talk about it.”

Talking about it means learning the facts about abuse, and learning the facts means knowing how to prevent it. And knowing how to prevent it means that it can stop. Safety and security expert Gavin De Becker, author of my favorite parenting book, Protecting the Gift, maintains that “the solution to violence in America is not more laws, more guns, more police or more prisons. The solution to violence is acceptance of reality. From there, you can hear the messengers of intuition. From there, you can evaluate risk and organize defenses. Reality is the highest ground you can find – and the safest – because from there you can see what’s coming.”

Registration for Walk a Mile in Her Shoes begins at 10:30 a.m., and the walk begins at 11:30 a.m. Women and children are also welcome, and can wear any footwear that they like. Funds raised go to support the Crime Victims Assistance/Rape Crisis Program.

Marist College is located at 3399 North Road in Poughkeepsie. For more information, go to, or visit their Facebook page, “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes Dutchess County.” To learn more about the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes organization, its website is


Jack & the Beanstalk at DCC this Saturday


Sprouting beans is pretty easy and fun to watch. If I had known that I didn’t need dirt for it, I would have done this a lot sooner! Just place a damp paper towel at the bottom of a jar, put a few dried beans in it (any type; try a variety and compare how they grow) and put it near a window. Now, want to add an element of fantasy, adventure and humor to your indoor garden? Then, head over to Dutchess Community College for a Jack and the Beanstalk puppet show by Crabgrass Puppet Theatre. This production is being billed as a “feast of visuals and sound, with a stunning stage, big and beautiful puppets, a rhyme-spouting giant, a marvelous growing beanstalk and a delightful musical score.”

Jack and the Beanstalk takes place at the James & Betty Hall Theatre on Saturday, April 21 at 11 a.m. as part of Dutchess Community College’s Family Series. It is a free performance, open to the public and suitable for all ages. Dutchess Community College is located at 53 Pendell Road in Poughkeepsie. For more information, call (845) 431-8000 or visit To learn more about the performers, visit



Swan Lake this Saturday at Mid-Hudson Library Auditorium


My daughter loves watching and dancing to the Barbie of Swan Lake video, and it thrilled her to hear the Hudson Valley Philharmonic perform the familiar Tchaikovsky melody during its recent Young People’s Concert. Now the Poughkeepsie Library District is partnering with the Poughkeepsie City Ballet and the New York Academy of Ballet to present a live performance of Swan Lake. John R. Nelson, local editor with the Poughkeepsie Journal, will be the guest reader, offering narration adapted from Mark Helprin’s book Swan Lake.

Swan Lake takes place on Saturday, April 21 from 2 to 3 p.m. at the Mid-Hudson Library System’s Auditorium. This is a free event designed for audiences of all ages, and no preregistration is required. The Auditorium is located at 105 Market Street in Poughkeepsie. For more information, call (845) 485-3445 or visit


Attempt to break mass diaper-change record this Saturday


Stories about how one person can make a difference really inspire me. I love Toni Morrison’s quote, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it,” because of the way in which it applies to life. There is such power in our passions.

The first Earth Day in 1970 came from the inspiration of one man, Senator Gaylord Nelson, and it led to the creation of the US Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts. In 2011, Judy Aagard had the idea to celebrate Earth Day with the cloth diaper community, and it quickly evolved into a worldwide event called the Great Cloth Diaper Change. A Guinness World Record was set for the most cloth diapers changed simultaneously, with 5,026 participants at 127 locations in five countries.

This year, the challenge is on to break last year’s record. On Saturday morning, April 21 at noon (participants must be registered before noon), two of my favorite baby boutiques are joining in on this event – and featuring giveaways, too. Bring your kidlet and your clean cloth diaper to New Baby New Paltz or Waddle n Swaddle, and be a part of this world-record attempt. Want to help but don’t have anyone in dipes? You can make a donation to the Real Diaper Association: a non-profit organization that provides support and education about simple, reusable cloth diapers.

For more information, contact New Baby New Paltz, located at 5 Plattekill Avenue in New Paltz, at (845) 750-4402 or; Waddle n Swaddle in Poughkeepsie, located at 32 Raymond Avenue, at (845) 473-5952; or Waddle n Swaddle in Rhinebeck, located at 41 East Market Street, Suite 4, at (845) 876-5952 or online at To learn more about the Great Cloth Diaper Change, visit


 If You Really Love Polar Bears this Sunday in Newburgh


Want to inspire and delight your kids this Earth Day? Check out the play If You Really Love Polar Bears, presented at the Railroad Playhouse in partnership with Making Books Sing. Meet Patchy, a little boy who takes a magical journey through the past, present and future and learns about how daily life impacts his beloved polar bears and the rest of the planet, and what we can do to minimize it. This combination of music, puppetry and comedy is especially recommended for children between 6 and 10 years of age.

Polar Bears takes place on Sunday, April 22 at 3 p.m. Tickets cost $8. Railroad Playhouse is located at 27 South Water Street in Newburgh. For reservations or more information, call (845) 565-3791 or visit To learn more about the performers, visit


Free Swim Evaluation Clinic in Millbrook


Based in the Hudson Valley, Free Families Forward was created in 2011 by Samantha Sloane Cole to organize free events in local communities. Free Families Forward and Millbrook Aquatics at the Millbrook Training Center are offering a free Swim Evaluation Clinic this weekend. Children will receive a written evaluation form at the end of their swimming evaluation.

This clinic takes place on April 21 and 22 from 1 to 2:30 p.m. The Millbrook Training Center’s Warm Water Indoor Pool is located at 2647 Route 44 in Millbrook. Registration is required. For more information or to register, call (845) 677-0100 or visit or


National Parks are free April 21-29


Don’t you just love saving money without feeling a pinch? Here’s a good way: It’s National Park Week, and that means free entrance to National Parks that usually charge fees. It’s also Money Smart Week: You can save gas, since we have several must-see historic sites right here in the Hudson Valley. Our local National Parks include the home of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, Eleanor’s Val-Kill cottage and the Vanderbilt Mansion in Hyde Park, as well as the Thomas Cole house in Catskill.

Can you hit all four spots during National Park Week? It has been a while since I have visited these places with my kids, so I’m planning to get to at least one of these this week. National Park Week runs from April 21 through 29. For more information about these fee-free days or about the individual sites, visit


SUNY-New Paltz hosts Astronomy Night this Saturday


What’s the difference between a planetarium and an observatory? According to Dr. Amy Forestell, the director of the Smolen Observatory at SUNY-New Paltz, “A planetarium is an indoor facility where stars are projected onto a domed roof. It is a bit like going to a movie theater, and the room will be very dark. An observatory is an outdoor location where telescopes are used to look at the sky.”

You and your family can experience both at Astronomy Night on Saturday, April 21, jointly sponsored by SUNY-New Paltz and the Mid-Hudson Astronomical Association (MHAA). Astronomy Night is normally offered at SUNY-New Paltz on the first and third Thursdays of every month. All the Astronomy Night programs are very family-friendly, and this special edition provides several concurrent activities. The first Planetarium show will start at 7:30 p.m. The Planetarium seats approximately 47 people. Those waiting for the second show will view an astronomy DVD (either Origins or Birth and Death of a Star) on one of the large screens in the nearby auditorium. Those waiting for the third or fourth show will have the option of going out to the Observatory for viewing, or they may also watch the second DVD screening.

The Observatory will have several telescopes available for viewing, with experienced observers from the college and the MHAA providing guidance. Dr. Forestell will be running the large 14-inch SCT scope in the Observatory.

I asked Dr. Forestell what she enjoys most about these community viewings. “My favorite part about hosting Astronomy Night at Smolen Observatory is watching kids look through a telescope for the first time, discovering all of the interesting things in the sky. Then when Mom and Dad get a turn, they are often even more impressed by the views! Many of the kids I talk to have heard about the Moon, planets and stars, but they never really connect it to the objects we can see in the sky.”

What do you do if the only telescope you have is the pretend one hooked on your playset outside? Dr. Forestell has some ideas: “If families would like to get starting looking at the sky on their own, I have two suggestions: First, dust off any old binoculars you might have lying around the house. You don’t need a fancy telescope to get started looking at the sky; objects like the Moon and big star clusters like the Pleiades are easy to see with binoculars. You’ll be surprised by what you find! Second, you can find maps of the sky online [a good free one is These will help you identify constellations, as well as tell you where to look for interesting things with your eyes or binoculars.”

Astronomy Night takes place on April 21 from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. at SUNY-New Paltz. Activities take place in the John R. Kirk Planetarium located in the Coykendall Science Building, and in Smolen Observatory. This all-ages event is free and open to the public. SUNY-New Paltz is located at 1 Hawk Drive in New Paltz. For more information, call (845) 257-3750 or visit


Magician Derrin Berger visits Unison this Saturday


Even though I make my own keys or cell phone disappear and reappear, I love magic shows. I never spot the secrets, so I just relax and accept that it’s actually real magic. I enjoy attending magic events with my kids because I like to watch their state of wonder activated over and over again. I also like to laugh. So I am appreciating that the Unison Arts & Learning Center in New Paltz is presenting The Magic of Derrin Berger. This is a guy who’s great at doing magic, engaging audiences of all ages, and he has a terrific sense of humor.

Derrin’s performance takes place on Saturday, April 21 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $10 general admission, $7 for Unison members. Unison is located at 68 Mountain Rest Road in New Paltz. For reservations or for more information, call (845) 255-1559 or visit To learn more about the performer, visit


Ventriloquist Fletcher performs in Rhinebeck this Saturday


Don’t make the same mistake I did: It’s called a “vent figure,” not a “dummy.” I am also delighted to learn that the etymology of ventriloquism is “stomach speaker,” stemming from the ancient belief that ventriloquists used their bellies to speak instead of their mouths. You try talking without moving your mouth right now. Then call the Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck and order tickets to see how it’s really done.

Sylvia Fletcher is a professional ventriloquist who will magically bring to life a trunkful of characters, including a hip Latino opossum, an adorable baby dinosaur and a mysterious picture. She encourages lots of audience participation and loves to make you laugh. Sylvia’s Magic Trunk performance takes place on Saturday, April 21 at 11 a.m. Tickets cost $7 for children, $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 Sylvia Fletcher, visit


Robinson’s live raptor show at Kingston Library this Saturday


My kids and I have borrowed countless books about animals from the library. But seeing the actual animals themselves at the library? That can only mean one thing: It’s a Super Saturday event at Kingston Library!

Wildlife World with educator Bill Robinson takes place on Saturday, April 21 at 10:30 a.m. Attendees will get to see live birds of prey, learn about their habits, feel the wind from their wings and even watch an owl swallow a rodent in one piece. Pay special attention to the fascinating adaptations of vultures. There will also be reptiles to observe, as participants learn about their importance in nature.

This program is free and open to the public, and intended for school-aged children. The Kingston Library is located at 55 Franklin Street in Kingston. For more information about this event, call (845) 331-0507 or visit To learn more about the presenters, visit


Touch a Truck this Sunday at Ulster County Fairgrounds


Ever since he was a baby, my son has been fascinated by anything with wheels. He wants to know how fast it goes, how much it can lift and how powerful it is. My daughter is fascinated by the dashboards and control panels on vehicles and what they do. I love sitting in a truck and getting a feel for how it might be to operate something so different from my Subaru. So the “Touch a Truck” event on Sunday, April 22 looks like a crowd-pleaser for our family.

Hosted by the New Paltz Rotary Club, they explain, “Touch a Truck is a unique, interactive one-day event, which allows children to see, touch and explore their favorite big trucks and vehicles, as well as to meet the personnel who protect, serve and build our community.” Refreshments and family activities will take place throughout the day.

Touch a Truck takes place at the Ulster County Fairgrounds from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $5 per person, free for children under age 3. The Fairgrounds are located at 249 Libertyville Road in New Paltz. For more information, visit


Olear on humor panel at Woodstock Writers’ Festival


I had a great time reading Greg Olear’s novel Fathermucker. I felt like every parenting feeling that I’ve ever had was completely validated and understood. I laughed at the children’s TV show melodies, resonated with the familiar and unpredictable play-date dynamics, learned a ton about Asperger’s and appreciated the local Hudson Valley references. There’s something about it being a Dad’s voice that tells it like it is: He’s the real deal. It somehow felt cathartic and even therapeutic, yet light and fun.

Greg straddles time and space so easily, he can hold the here-and-now while slipping into a moment of retrospect, then snap back at a moment’s notice: total parenting zone. Greg’s Fathermucker blog is pretty awesome, too. A variety of terrific contemporary guest writers share their impressions and experiences related to parenthood.

You can buy Fathermucker wherever books are sold. And you can meet Greg yourself at the Woodstock Writers’ Festival. He’s on a panel called “The Serious Business of Being Funny” with Shalom Auslander and Elisa Albert on Sunday, April 22 at 2 p.m. I asked Greg his thoughts about being part of this event. He shared, “I’m thrilled to take part in the Woodstock Writers’ Festival, mostly because it makes me feel part of what is a fantastic artistic community here in the Hudson Valley. It’s like Frank Sinatra sang about Woodstock: If you can make it there, you can make peace, love and music anywhere.”

“The Serious Business of Being Funny” takes place at the Kleinert/James Arts Center, located at 34 Tinker Street in Woodstock. Tickets cost $25. For reservations or for more information about this literary event, visit To learn more about Greg and his work, visit or


 Nothern Dutchess Rod & Gun Club hosts Trout Derby on April 22


One thing that I keep meaning to do more often with my kids is fishing. I know I can get worms at Stewart’s shops, and thanks to my friend’s sage advice, I learned to clip the barb off the hook with pliers for an easier release; but I still need ideas for good spots to fish with kids. Enter Trout Derby 2012 at the Northern Dutchess Rod & Gun Club! This family-friendly event on April 22 is open to the public and gives anglers of all abilities a chance to try their luck in their stocked trout pond. Prizes are awarded for each age group.

Entry fees are $20 for adults and $5 for children age 12 and under. Registration starts at 7 a.m., fishing runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and awards are announced at 3 p.m. Refreshments are available to buy on-site. The Northern Dutchess Rod & Gun Club is located at 140 Enterprise Road in Rhinebeck. For more information, call (845) 876-3711 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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