CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. — People from around the Capital Region took advantage of gray skies to visit a variety of sites in town for the community’s annual self-guided tour of the town, Farm Fest.
A day later the skies had cleared bringing the sun out and the temperatures up, but for those looking to pick a bag of apples, check out some antiques for the wall or visit a sheep farm without working up a sweat Saturday was perfect.
The event originally began as a way to celebrate the town’s agricultural heritage but as more farms and orchards downsize or close completely the day is slowly moving toward a wider community event.
For the first time last year the Friends of Historic Grooms Tavern held a successful tag or garage sale at the Sugar Hill Road building. This year the tag sale drew its share of visitors to Farm Fest as did a vintage and antique market held at the Vischer Ferry General Store on Riverview Road in Vischer Ferry.
People interested in seeing what was available at the Historic Grooms Tavern’s tag sale were lined up by the store’s back door before the 10 a.m. opening.
Once inside they were treated to tables filled with plates, cookware, candlesticks, Christmas decorations, and electronic goods. A battery operated TV sat on a preacher’s bench just waiting to be taken home.
“We started out at the Vischer Ferry General Store looking at the antiques and clothing and now we’re here,” said Frank Plastini. “It’s a nice fall day. We got some Honey Crisp (apples) yesterday at Bowman’s.
"I went a day early to avoid the crowds.”
By lunchtime Riverview Orchards on Riverview Road was bustling with families enjoying hayrides into the orchard, visiting the farm store for hot apple donuts and bagged apples, or stopping for a bite to eat at the Clifton Park Rotary’s Farm Fest lunch stand.
“We’re picking Jonamacs, Cortlandt, and Macintosh,” said Kevin Shea the orchard’s co-owner. “Next week we’ll have Empire and Red Delicious ready to pick.”
One of the more interesting draws at Riverview Orchards was Fur Fest, a subsidiary part of Farm Fest. Visitors could consider adopting a cat or dog from the Saratoga County Animal Shelter, talk to those who specialize in pet rescues, purchase treats, pick up clothing items for their pets, or have a photo taken with them.
Josh Grassi of Clifton Park Pet Search has been helping frantic pet owners find their pets for 15 years. He described some of his efforts past and present.
“I’m looking for a pit bull in the Voorheesville area right now,” he said. “He’s been out 30 days and no matter what I do he won’t come to me. There’s been sightings and I have one photo of him but I can’t get him.”
Grassi told of finding a missing Yorki in the Mechanicville area for a Stillwater family after he’d been missing for two weeks.
“Once I got notified by a resident they’d seen him I went over and started grilling,” Grassi said. “I told the family to come down with me and we waited in our cars because it was December and sure enough out he came.
"The family was really happy and he ran right over to them.”
The Henry family of Clifton Park came to the orchard for apples.
“We picked Jonamacs, Cortlandts and Macs,” said Patrick Henry. “We came here last year and got apples and took a hayride and really enjoyed the ambiance.”
At Shepherd’s Hey Farm there was no chance the farm’s herd of sheep would get out. Most were taking a nap in the barn.
“Here,” said owner Larry Sydzek to a youngster, “take a handful of this corn and shake it around in the scoop, toss it in there, and watch them wake up. To them this is ice cream.”
After two shakes of the scoop the herd of 20 sheep came around the corner on the run looking for the corn.
Not far away Ruth Olmsted finished spinning some dyed wool for a young admirer and quickly turned it into a small doll. Riley Marlette took it and held it against her chest.
“She picked out the purple wool from the box of samples and we learned how to card it and then spin it into thread and here’s the finished product,” said Riley’s mother Amy Marlette.
At the Vischer Ferry General Store’s vintage clothing and antique vendors were doing a brisk business on the store’s back lawn. The idea for the first-time market came from Mary Colleen Liburdi, an antique vendor and friend of the store’s owner.
“This (event) is a celebration of community, a celebration of the area,” Liburdi said. “It ties into the agricultural feel because the store is part of the community and uses local farm products wherever it can. It’s part of the farm to table movement.”
Liburdi said she’d heard good reviews from the vendors and their customers.
“I heard a lot of people liked the addition of the antique and vintage market,” she said. “It’s an experiment that paid off.”