In my area, there is a weekly harvest festival at Bethel Woods that runs from the last Sunday in August to Columbus Day weekend. People from all over come to it for the vendors and the great food. There are produce vendors, homemade crafts for sale, music and performances to listen to, food and treats to try, brewery and winery tastings, activities for kids, a corn maze, and a few animals to pet. Bethel Woods has advertised and marketed this weekly event so that now it is always bustling with out-of-towners and local families.
However, I have started to notice something about this popular harvest festival, and I am not alone. I did not recognize many of the farms or vendors there. I used to always run into someone I know there, but now I feel like a stranger in a crowd. Several years ago, I bought a homemade and unique table lazy susan from a vendor there as a gift for a friend. I expected it to be expensive, but I bought it for around $50. What a steal! However, this year I saw a similar item at harvest festival for over $200!
I used to hear my friends talk about what they found at Bethel Woods Harvest Festival that Sunday, like 2 lbs of fresh green beans, or pies from a local baker for much less than what they sell it for their shop, or even to make plans to go again the following Sunday. Now, no one I know really wants to go, but somehow it’s always full of people. In fact, it’s so full of people that it’s difficult to move around without being shoved or stepped on by someone. There’s something wrong with this picture.
I looked through this year’s harvest festival brochure and recognized very few of the vendors listed. There were a couple of farms and vendors that I recognized from the Callicoon area, a local distillery and brewery, and some of the performers seemed local, but most I had never heard of before or have seen local stores for. A simple Google search of some of the names listed in the brochure that was shoved in my hand showed that most of the vendors were from Ulster or Orange Counties, not Sullivan. No wonder why I didn’t recognize most of the farm names or vendors. They aren’t local! That would explain why the people attending Bethel Woods Harvest Festivals are strangers to me.
I try very hard to support local business. I enjoy shopping in “main street” shops and talking with store owners. I prefer to get produce and meats from local farmers directly. It gives me a feeling of community and doing something meaningful. Local shops and vendors have unique items with a connection to the area. Supporting them is how we give our own sluggish economy a boost. It’s also nice to walk into a shop and the store clerk or owner knows your name or has suggestions for you that they really think you’ll enjoy.
So as we leave harvest festival season behind us and head into the holiday season and Small Business Saturday, take a walk down Main Street and stop in a store instead of heading to the mall. I bet you’ll find a homemade wreath or hand painted wine glasses or a unique apron. Maybe even a throw-back child’s toy or a collector’s item. Then stop in the diner and warm up with cocoa or a coffee. It all helps our area!