Sun shone on the Canal Street Station Fall Festival
To the Editor:
The Eighth Annual Fall Festival, held Sept. 28 and 29, was inspired by all with two wonderful days of perfect fall sunshine, unlike the previous year with two days of cold rain and flooding. It certainly turns the spirit around for everyone to enjoy.
We were entertained on Sunday by the “Loosely Wound String Band” along with many homemade food vendors and crafters from around the Capital District both Saturday and Sunday. The Pioneer Gas Engine Association came again this year with century-old washing machines powered by gas engines; corn shellers and grinders; a buzz saw; outboard motors; a remanufactured vintage boat; and many belt-powered, one-cylinder engines, tractors, and mowers.
This year, we had a steam-engine demonstration and because the apple season has returned back to normal, cider pressing was a hit demonstration, showing families how cider used to be pressed from the trees on the farm. We thank Indian Ladder Farms for providing all of our apples for cider pressing.
Guilderland’s original horse-drawn road grader, which once was used to grade Route 20 and many side roads in the town, was on display.
Smitty Steve Gurzler along with the Capital District Blacksmiths demonstrated the art of blacksmithing, forging forks, spoons, and general tools that were commonly used on the farm. This year an 1880s’ vintage rail track, hand-operated inspection car was demonstrated on our rails showing the earliest of railroad equipment.
Antique cars, trucks, hot rods, racecars, and motorcycles came throughout the weekend to display the history of transportation. Included was a 1904 horseless carriage, and there were horses, too.
Our 1953 EMD [Electro-Motive Division] New York Central locomotive showed her spirit all lit up at night with an ongoing stream of spectators entering her engine room and cab to experience the vision of driving a locomotive.
In our “Wallace Armer” general store museum, folks were taken back in time to experience the life of shopping in the 1930s. Our store has been restored to display home and farm needs along with penny candy and ice cream, as our great-grandparents would have shopped when life was simpler.
In our store, tinsmith Walter Fleming displayed 18th-Century tin art that he hand makes. Walter LeClair demonstrated the craft of woodcarving and displayed many of his lovely bird carvings.
Homemade pastries and breads were offered by “Baked by Linda,” freshly made for store visitors.
The Duanesburg Historical Society had books and pamphlets on the history of Duanesburg available. Fresh cider doughnuts from Indian Ladder Farms and cider from Altamont Orchards was available to visitors in the store.
On the deck, there was fresh produce by Heritage Farms and plants by Dab Landscaping, displayed in horse-drawn wagons as farm-fresh produce would have been brought to town before today’s supermarkets.
Fancher’s Creekside Farm offered homemade jams and jellies as well as maple syrup. It also had a wonderful display of miniature working gas engines and a hay press that made five-inch hay bales.
Handmade totes and bags were offered by Christy Ann’s Designs, which were very original in design. Homemade cheese spreads and baked goodies by Worldling’s Pleasure were available.
A very rare display of vintage outboard motors by Jeff Kowalski showed the history of maritime engine development. “Bob’s Bugs” offered handmade, original, and unique displays of outdoor bugs made from metal springs, wire, and miscellaneous parts.
In our 1940s’ Silk City Diner, a display of place settings and cookware showed how we served food and made friends when we traveled long distances on Route 20 before the interstate highway system. Author of Diners in New York, Mike Engle came again this year to display photos of diners all across New York and the history of how diners were made and transported to local towns, diners still in business today, and the ones that didn’t survive.
Again this year, we had barbecued chicken, ribs, and pulled pork dinners by “Barbecue Delights.” The smoke from the barbecue always brings an appetite to many folks that visit our festival.
The Canal Street Station Railroad Village festival brings together displays and demonstrates arts, crafts, historic preservation, restoration, remanufacturing, and foods by some of the most talented artists and craftsmen in our country, all bringing together a tradition of our American heritage for all of us to experience.
Long before today’s computer technology and big-box mall shopping, life was lived in a common-sense manner of knowing your neighbors, bartering and doing business with farmers and local mom-and-pop businesses. Today, we drive ourselves to death trying to keep up with box-store competition, town ordinances, taxes, government regulations, cyberspace communications, texting, and laptop Internet buying.
We have lost the simple way of life and the great American dream. I strongly urge our younger generation to visit local farms, patronize small businesses, visit museums, and walk nature trails as a way to come back to understand where we have evolved from and how our community was built by simply saying “hello” and working together with neighbors.
I would like to express my sincere appreciation to all of our staff volunteers, members, artisans, farmers, exhibitors, local businesses, the Times Union, The Times Journal and The Altamont Enterprise for all helping to make this weekend of reliving our heritage come alive. Thank you for your contributions and to everyone who came by to visit.
Joseph J. Merli
Canal Street Station Railroad Village
Editor’s note: The Canal Street Station Railroad Village is a not-for-profit organization.