Summer Fairs and Festivals in the Hudson Valley 2015
Our annual roundup of the region’s fun summertime fests
Hairspray at Mac-Haydn Theatre in Chatham
The summer social season is here! From the amazing Dutchess County Fair (and their famous milkshakes) to a wide variety of festivals highlighting everything from Shakespeare to horses to country music, it’s time to plan your sensational season of fun.
May 21-August 22
May-Hayden Theatre, Chatham
What It Is: For nearly 50 years, this Columbia County theater-in-the-round has been dedicated to producing musicals — for both adults and children — that are performed by a cast of professional actors and theater students.
What’s New: Mac-Haydn’s jam-packed lineup of 11 shows mingles the Great White Way’s best-loved classics with more recent award-winning favorites. Highlights include composer Leonard Bernstein’s iconic West Side Story (July 23-26, July 29-Aug. 2, Aug. 5-9) and the flapper favorite, Thoroughly Modern Millie (Aug. 27-30, Sept. 2-6), both of which share the bill with Rent (June 18-21 & 24-28) and Hairspray (July 2-5, 8-12, & 15-19). Young and old alike are sure to be entranced by the children’s theater production of Sleeping Beauty (June 26-7, July 3-4 & 10-11).
Don’t Miss: The chance to see Broadway’s next superstar. The Mac-Haydn is known for the stars (such as The Producers’ Nathan Lane and TV’s Paige Turco) who have graced its stage before moving on to the big time.
Details: 518-392-9292; www.machaydntheatre.org
May 29-October 19
Shadowland Theatre, Ellenville
What It Is: Professional theater productions are mounted in a beautifully restored 1920s Art Deco music hall.
What’s New: “I’m thrilled that our audience allows us to produce such a diverse season of plays,” says Producing Artistic Director Brendan Burke. “There’s definitely something for everyone here, from the important to the whimsical.” The schedule begins with Bruce Norris’s Pulitzer-winning Clybourne Park (May 29-June 14), a comedy about race relations and real estate. Noted playwright Donald Margulies’s Shipwrecked! An Entertainment uses just three actors and a foley artist to spin a swashbuckling 19th-century tale of high-seas adventure (June 19-July 5). Moon Over Buffalo, Ken Ludwig’s farce about a pair of aging theater actors confronting their last chance at stardom, is up next (July 10-Aug. 2), followed by the grassroots musical, Woody Guthrie’s American Song (Aug. 7-30). The season rolls into the fall with The Last Five Years (Sept. 4-27) — Broadway composer Jason Robert Brown’s musical love story about 20-something New Yorkers — and wraps up with The Whipping Man (Oct. 2-19), a historical drama set at the end of the Civil War.
Don’t Miss: Manhattan-quality theater at the foot of the Catskills. Shadowland is renowned for offering award-winning works by top-flight playwrights and composers in an intimate, 186-seat setting. Mark your calendar for the comedy, Greetings!, the theater’s first holiday show (Dec. 4-20).
Details: 845-647-5511; www.shadowlandtheatre.org
Hunter Mountain hosts back-to-back festivals: Mountain Jam featuring the Black Keys (left), and the Taste of Country Music Festival (right)
June 4-7 & June 12-14
Mountain Jam and Taste of Country Music Festival, Hunter Mountain
What It Is: These back-to-back outdoor music fests are both held at Hunter Mountain ski resort, a natural amphitheater that’s ideal for sound. Now in its 11th year, Mountain Jam’s popularity has exploded: 40 bands perform on three stages throughout the weekend, with upwards of 15,000 attendees expected per day. The third edition of the Taste of Country Music Festival — the only multi-day camping country fest in the Northeast — has a lineup of 19 acts, with some of country’s biggest names as headliners.
What’s New: Grammy-winning rock duo the Black Keys, iconic Led Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant, roots rockers the Alabama Shakes, and Gov’t Mule — along with local favorites Amy Helm, Simone Felice, and Simi Stone — all hit the stage at Mountain Jam, while multiple CMA Award winners Tim McGraw, Toby Keith, and Keith Urban light things up at ToCM.
Don’t Miss: Check out the crowd from 3,000 feet in the air on the Skyride, Hunter’s state-of-the art chairlift that, in the summer, doubles as a high-flying way to view the high peaks of the Northern Catskills, the Berkshires, and even the Green Mountains of Vermont.
Details: (Mountain Jam) 518-628-4423; www.mountainjam.com, (Taste of Country Music Festival) 855-821-9208; www.tasteofcountryfestival.com
Country Living Fair, Rhinebeck
What It Is: This fair brings Country Living Magazine’s content to life, giving readers access to more than 200 vendors including antiques sellers, food purveyors, artists, furniture makers, crafters, and more. Guests can also enjoy cooking, crafting, and DIY demonstrations; can sample locally-sourced, artisanal food; and can shop the Specialty Food Market and the Country Living General Store.
What’s New: Celeb appearances by Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell of “The Fabulous Beekman Boys,” Cari Cucksey of HGTV’s Cash & Cari, and Joanne Palmisano from the DIY network.
Details: 1-866-500-FAIR; www.countryliving.com/fair/a4255/country-living-fair-rhinebeck
Hudson Valley Pride March & Festival, New Paltz
What It Is: This festival began in 2005 as a celebration of same-sex marriage in New Paltz. Years later, its size — as well as its spirit — has grown exponentially. The parade, which caps off Hudson Valley LGBTQ Pride Week, is expected to draw over 2,500 attendees. In addition to the march, there is live music, food and craft vendors, and the Youth Booth, which houses games, activities, and resources for children and teens.
What’s New: Special speakers include Pride Grand Marshal Retts Scauzillo, chair and organizer of Hudson Valley Pride for the past five years; and LGBTQ civil rights legend Ginny Apuzzo, founding president of the Center.
K104Fest, Wappingers Falls
What It Is: Catch radio favorites Robin Thicke, Flo Rida, Charli XCX, at Walk the Moon at the station’s annual summer concert at Dutchess Stadium.
What’s New: Purchase VIP tickets in the Patio Zone, the Cabana Pow, or the Pit and receive special privileges that will make other guests envious.
June 9-September 1
Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, Garrison
What It Is: Now in its 29th season, this imaginative, professional acting troupe presents the Bard’s plays in an open-air tent on the grounds of Boscobel House and Gardens. Using a stunning view of the Hudson River and Highlands as a backdrop, the company performs a pair of Shakespearean plays — as well as one or two other works — in repertory each summer.
What’s New: “Our 2015 season is a celebration of the power of storytelling. Next to eating, and sleeping, and love, one of our deepest human needs is for stories,” says Artistic Director Davis McCallum. Now in his sophomore season with the company, McCallum makes his directorial debut with the Shakespearean romance/comedy, A Winter’s Tale. Five actors portray 20 different characters in a modernized version of the ever-popular comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The wily Scheherezade spins never-ending tales to save herself from her murderous husband, the king, in The Arabian Nights, an adaptation of The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night written by playwright/director Mary Zimmerman and directed by Lileana Blain-Cruz. Five performances of An Iliad — a contemporary reworking of Homer’s epic poem about the Trojan War — are also on tap; this Obie Award-winning one-man show features veteran HVSF actor Kurt Rhoads.
Don’t Miss: Family-friendly Shakespeare. In August, fledgling actors in the HVSF Conservatory Company present four performances of the playwright’s The Tempest, giving the production a circus-like treatment that’s just the ticket for young theatergoers.
Details: 845-265-9575; www.hvshakespeare.org
June 13-September 13 (various dates)
Maverick Concerts, Woodstock
What It Is: America’s oldest continuous summer chamber music festival (100 years!) holds its concerts in an acoustically superb “music chapel” built in the Catskill woods in 1916.
What’s New: The veteran percussion group NEXUS opens the season with Peter Schickele’s Percussion Sonata No. 3, “Maverick.”
June 17-August 26
Saratoga Performing Arts Center Summer Festivals, Saratoga Springs
What It Is: The host of many exciting summer performances, SPAC presents a lineup of seven musicians and dancers to Saratoga between June and August.
Don’t Miss: The Lar Lubovitch Dance Company (pictured above) presents three works choreographed by its eponymous lead choreographer (June 17). The annual Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival features headliners Erykah Badu, Maze (along with Frankie Beverly), Sheila E, and Cassandra Wilson (June 27-28). The Mormon Tabernacle Choir performs its 2015 East Coast tour (June 29). The month of July kicks off with a two-week residency from the New York City Ballet, which debuts Justin Peck’s new 'Rōdē,ō: Four Dance Episodes and Peter Martins’ staging of August Bournonville’s La Sylphide, as well as a spectacular Ballet Gala (July 7-18). The National Ballet of China steps in on July 21-22 with The Peony Pavilion, a 400-year-old Chinese play. Don’t miss the Philadelphia Orchestra, vocalist Bernadette Peters, cellists Yo-Yo Ma and Johannes Moser, Megan Hilty, violinist Joshua Bell, conductors Bramwell Tovey and Stéphane Denève, and more (August 5-22). The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center also makes an appearance (August 9-26).
Details: 518-584-9330, ext. 119; www.spac.org
Aston Magna Music Festival, Annandale-on-Hudson
What It Is: America’s longest-running early-music festival that uses only historically accurate instruments, this five-week series takes place in four venues in Massachusetts and New York — including Bard College’s Olin Auditorium.
What’s New: This year’s theme is “Monteverdi’s Warring Lovers.” Guests can partake in a pre-concert talk with Artistic Director Daniel Stepner one hour ahead of each program.
June 19-September 19
Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, Bethel
What It Is: Opened in 2006, on the 37-acre field where the 1969 Woodstock festival was held, this multi-arts center hosts outdoor summer concerts by rock, pop, country, and classical music headliners.
What’s New: You’ll be hard-pressed to name a musical genre that’s not represented in the center’s crowded summer lineup. Pop/rock bands Train and The Fray (June 26), bluesy rockers Chicago, and Earth, Wind & Fire (Sept. 1), jazzy American Songbook vocalists Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga (July 25), classical choristers the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (June 27), country megastars Brad Paisley (July 24) and Rascal Flatts (Aug. 30) — even the Kidz Bop Kids take the pavilion stage this season.
Don’t Miss: Singer Peter Cetera joins our own Hudson Valley Philharmonic for a concert that features songs like “If You Leave Me Now,” from his days as vocalist with the band Chicago, as well as solo hits recorded for films like The Karate Kid II and Pretty Woman.
Details: 866-781-2922; www.bethelwoodscenter.org
Newburgh Illuminated Festival, Newburgh
What It Is: Celebrate the city’s 150th birthday at this festival, dedicated to honoring what makes Newburgh the culturally diverse place that it is. Enjoy food from local purveyors and live music all day on multiple stages.
What’s New: Pop-up art shows, family-friendly events, and a trolley tour of historical Newburgh.
Clearwater’s Great Hudson River Revival, Croton-on-Hudson
What It Is: What began as a fundraiser more than 40 years ago to help clean up the polluted Hudson has morphed into a two-day event with seven stages of entertainment, environmental exhibits, handcrafted art, artisanal food, and a farm market at Croton Point Park.
What’s New: Confirmed performers for this year’s festival include David Crosby, Citizen Cope, Los Lobos, Neko Case, and Guster.
June 20-August 2 (various dates)
Caramoor International Music Festival, Katonah
What It Is: A star-studded lineup for the festival’s 70th anniversary appears in this Italian-style villa, with performances taking place at multiple locations (including the 1,700-seat Venetian Theater, the outdoor Spanish Courtyard, and the picturesque Sunken Garden).
What’s New: Performers include the Jasper String Quartet, the Calidore String Quartet, PROJECT Trio, Gabriel Kahane & Rob Moose, and Ana Vidovic.
June 25-August 16
Bard SummerScape, Annandale-on-Hudson
What It Is: Eight weeks of arts programming — opera, music, dance, theater, film — that the New York Times has dubbed “part boot camp for the brain, part spa for the spirit.” The centerpiece of it all is the annual Bard Music Festival (Aug. 7-9 & 13-16), which examines the work of a particular composer; the SummerScape programs tie in to the composer in one way or another.
What’s New: Mexico’s Carlos Chavez (1899-1978) is the first Latin American composer to be spotlighted by the Music Festival. Some of the SummerScape offerings were written by Chavez’s contemporaries, including Dame Ethel Smyth’s rarely performed opera The Wreckers (July 24-Aug. 2), with music by the American Symphony Orchestra. A chamber production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Broadway musical Oklahoma! (June 25-July 19) will have actors and audience members sharing food, music, and song. Fernando Rubio’s dreamlike theater piece, Everything By My Side; and “Reinventing Mexico,” a series dedicated to south-of-the-border modernist films, are other festival highlights.
Don’t Miss: The big names appearing in the Spiegeltent. This elaborately decorated, turn-of-the-century performance tent hosts cabaret and late-night performances throughout the summer; catch up-close encounters with Tony-winning actor Alan Cumming (July 3) and singer/songwriter Suzanne Vega (Aug. 8).
Details: 845-758-7900, www.fishercenter.bard.edu
Rockland-Bergen Music Festival, Tappan
What It Is: This second-annual festival, which drew more than 1,000 attendees last year, has expanded to a two-day-long event with three stages of music featuring more than 40 performers.
Don’t Miss: The lineup includes Shawn Colvin, Tom Chapin, Joe Grushecky, Garland Jeffreys, Willie Nile, John Sebastian, and many local songwriters from the Rockland/Bergen area. The festival also offers food and craft beer vendors, including Bailey’s Smokehouse, Denise Marie Catering, Posa Posa, and Growler & Gill. Fifteen local charities have partnered with the festival and will be accepting donations. As a bonus, anyone born in 1965 will receive free admission in celebration of their 50th birthday.
Old Songs Festival, Altamont
What It Is: Acoustic roots music of all stripes — folk, blues, bluegrass, traditional, world and Celtic — is the focus of this three-day event at the Altamont Fairgrounds. Audience participation is a key part of the fest: Attendees are encouraged to join jam sessions, take music classes, or sing sacred harp. At “Todd Crowley’s Music Petting Zoo,” you can try to play any of more than 100 instruments.
What’s New: This year’s concert performers include the cast of “Down with the Rent,” Sheila Kay Adams (a ballad singer and banjo player), and Exilir (dance music with horns).
June 26-August 2
Powerhouse Theater, Poughkeepsie
What It Is: For five weeks, new plays and musicals — written and directed by some of professional theater’s brightest lights — are staged as complete productions or in workshop form. Now in its 31st season, this collaboration between New York Stage and Film, and Vassar College (where the performances take place) spotlights both well-established and emerging playwrights, directors, and actors.
What’s New: Mainstage productions include Powerhouse veteran Keith Bunin’s play, The Unbuilt City (July 1-12), a world premiere directed by Tony nominee Sean Mathias. The Light Years (July 23-Aug. 2), a musical about the Chicago World’s Fairs of 1893 and 1933, is written and performed by the Debate Society company — whose principal members, Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen, are Vassar alumni. Duncan Sheik (Spring Awakening, American Psycho) teams with Kyle Jarrow (Whisper House) for Noir, a musical workshop inspired by old-time radio plays and Hollywood crime dramas (July 31-Aug. 2). Based on stories by Tennessee Williams, Desire includes six short works by playwrights Beth Henley (Cries of the Heart) and John Guare (House of Blue Leaves), among others (July 2-5).
Don’t Miss: Free outdoor Shakespeare. The Powerhouse Apprentice Company performs the Bard’s Twelfth Night (July 10-12) and Much Ado About Nothing (July 23-25) — as well as Caryl Churchill’s Vinegar Tom (July 17-19) — at the bucolic Vassar Farms Ecological Preserve.
Details: 845-437-5907; www.powerhouse.vassar.edu
Dutchess County Balloon Festival, Poughkeepsie & Wappingers Falls
What It Is: Dozens of brightly colored hot-air balloons take to the mid-Hudson skies during early morning and evening launches from the Poughkeepsie waterfront and Dutchess County Airport. Participants are invited to come to the launch sites to watch the balloons as they are inflated and then sent aloft.
What’s New: “This is the 25th annual balloon festival, and we are celebrating in a big way,” says Rich Kleban of the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the event. “We will have 25 balloonists coming from all parts of the country.” The launches take place at 6 p.m. both Friday and Saturday on the waterfront “just south of Shadows-on-the-Hudson restaurant,” says Kleban. And in a change from recent years, the 6 a.m. launch on Saturday and Sunday will be held at the airport. “There’s much more open space there, and it’s better for spectators,” says Kleban. Other activities — including entertainment, food vendors, and fun activities for kids — are in the planning stages.
Don’t Miss: The chance to get a bird’s-eye view of the Valley. Balloon flights are available to the public for a fee.
Details: 845-454-1700; www.dcrcoc.org/balloonfestival
Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival, Oak Hill
What It Is: This four-day gathering pulls in some of the biggest names in bluegrass music to perform on its three stages. A wide range of vendors is on-site, offering all manner of foods, crafts, jewelry, and clothing.
What’s New: Of the 40-plus bands slated to perform, don’t miss the Del McCoury Band, the Gibson Brothers, Balsam Range, and Della Mae.
Dragon Boat Race & Asian Festival, Poughkeepsie
What It Is: Watch as two dozen 40-foot-long canoes, painted to look like dragons, race down the Hudson. Celebrate Asian culture on the shoreline during the accompanying festival, complete with taiko drumming, sushi and cooking demos, origami workshops, and other activities.
Bounty of the Hudson, Marlboro
What It Is: This two-day wine and food festival celebrates the wonderful vinos of the Hudson Valley, fresh produce, and epicurean treats from local restaurants.
What’s New: This is the event’s 20th anniversary. Visitors sample wines from all 14 Shawangunk Wine Trail wineries, plus others from around the region. Enjoy Hudson Valley cheese, honey, baked goods, and the best of the Valley’s produce as live music fills the air.
July 29-August 2
Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice, Phoenicia
What It Is: This five-day vocal extravaganza celebrates the human voice as an instrument, in all its many manifestations. Attendees can hear opera and Broadway show tunes and gospel and jazz concerts held in churches, museums, coffee shops, and parks in and around the Catskills village of Phoenicia. Workshops, panel discussions, and meet-the-artist sessions are among the 23 programs on the bill.
What’s New: Voices of Distinction: Red, White and Blues, a concert of American music of all stripes, opens the festival on the 29th. Other highlights include Gian-Carlo Menotti’s one-act opera, The Medium, starring the Met Opera’s Victoria Livengood (July 31 & Aug. 1); and Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway musical hit, A Little Night Music (July 30). Gospel performances (Aug. 2), Inuit (Aug. 1), and Jewish cantor singing (Aug. 2) are also featured; the fest closes with songs from the Voices of Gotham, a barbershop harmony chorus (Aug. 2).
Don’t Miss: Hearing the dulcet tones of one of America’s greatest mezzo-sopranos, Frederica Von Stade. This opera superstar is one of three singers performing a program entitled “American Classics: Live and In Person” (July 31). The concert features works by American composers that were created specifically for the singers on the stage. The composers themselves — including Valley resident Peter Schickele (aka P.D.Q. Bach) — will be in attendance.
Details: 845-586-3588; www.phoeniciavoicefest.org
Wrestling Under the Stars, Wappingers Falls
What It Is: Presented by Northeast Wrestling and the Hudson Valley Renegades, this fest includes headliners Rey Mysterio and Alberto El Patron, along with Jeff Hardy, Matt Taven, the Young Bucks, Brian Anthony, and more.
Details: 609-858-3446; www.northeastwrestling.com
25th Annual Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival, Queens, New York
What It Is: The “oldest, largest, most traditional dragon boat festival in the U.S.,” this year’s festival celebrates the year of the Ram with family-friendly entertainment and racing.
Details: 718-767-1776; www.hkdbf-ny.org
Hudson Valley RibFest, New Paltz
What It Is: Celebrating its 11th year, this annual festival and barbecue contest offers a lot more than just mouth-watering meat: There’s live music, cooking demonstrations, and vittles of every sort.
What’s New: Friday-only festivities include all-you-can-eat barbeque favorites, exclusive samplings for Hudson Valley Ribfest Ribbers, a variety of craft beers, six beverage tickets to use in the VIP tent, and a VIP gift bag.
Don’t Miss: The BBQ Contest, which is an official New York State Championship.
Monticello Bagel Festival, Monticello
What Is Is: It goes without saying that we New Yorkers love our bagels. What better way to pay homage to this doughy pastry than by attending a festival dedicated to them? The Bagel Festival will return for its third incarnation in Monticello, which bills itself as the birthplace of the ever-popular bread product.
What’s New: Try your luck at stacking, rolling, and throwing bagels in the Bagel Triathlon.
Don’t Miss: The world’s largest bagel chain.
Summer Hoot Festival, Olivebridge
What It Is: Folkies get their fill at this weekend music festival. Held at the Ashokan Center, the fest encourages camping at various sites throughout the center’s 374 acres.
What It Is: After floods caused by Hurricane Irene decimated Prattsville in 2011, the inhabitants of this small Catskills town fought back, banding together to rebuild their community bit by bit. Now in its fourth year, Mudfest celebrates the resilience and spirit of Prattsville’s residents with live music, food vendors, an arts fair, fireworks, and a variety of games.
What’s New: Bands Skeeter Creek and Southbound will play live on Friday night.
Beginning in September...
Equine! Equine! Equine! Festival, Rhinebeck
What It Is: Hankering for some horsey fun? Free pony rides, horse demonstrations and clinics, blacksmithing demos, an equine art show, and lots of food and drink are just part of the fun at this celebration of the horse at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds.
What’s New: This year’s headliner is Jessica Lynn, a country singer from New York whose band is about to embark on a national tour.
Hudson Valley Garlic Festival, Saugerties
What It Is: Say goodbye to summer with the legendary Hudson Valley Garlic Festival, an annual tribute to the pungent bulb. The fest grows bigger every year, often boasting upwards of 50,000 attendees. Meet garlic farmers, vendors, and chefs in an atmosphere of live music and lectures.
What’s New: Garlic Seed Foundation unveils its new Garlic Farmers’ Cookbook.
Don’t Miss: The garlic ice cream.
Dutchess County Fair, Rhinebeck
What It Is: Animal exhibits and competitions, food and agricultural presentations, historical displays, midway excitement, top-drawer entertainment — and don’t forget great food: All are part of the Dutchess County Fair, which has been held annually for 170 years. Statewide, this end of August tradition is the second largest county fair, with the Erie County Fair coming in at No. 1; upwards of 300,000 visitors pass through the Dutchess County Fair gates each year.
What’s New: The entertainment at the fair always includes some big-name acts, and this year is no exception. Country music dominates, with performances by A Thousand Horses and Dan & Shay (Tuesday, Aug. 25), and singer/songwriter Cole Swindell (Thursday, Aug. 27). On Wednesday, the perennial rock band the Doobie Brothers plays some of the many hits (“What a Fool Believes,” “Takin’ It to the Streets”) from its 45-year history. Grammy nominees the Spin Doctors (“Two Princes,” “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong”) rock out on Friday, and basketball slam-dunk specialists Aerodunk wow the crowd with high-flying moves on Saturday.
Don’t Miss: With its long history and enduring popularity, the fair is renowned for many of its offerings and attractions. A short list: Rosaire’s Racing Pigs and Commerford’s Petting Zoo, the flower and garden show, antique tractor pull, and the talent show. Some local residents (and editors) wait all year for their 4-H milkshake and fried dough fix.
Details: 845-876-4000; www.dutchessfair.com
July 22-August 2
Orange County Fair, Middletown
Details: 845-343-4826; www.orangecountyfair.com
Putnam County Fair, Carmel
Details: 845-278-6738; www.putnam.cce.cornell.edu
July 28-August 2
Ulster County Fair, New Paltz
Details: 845-255-1380; www.ulstercountyfair.com
Columbia County Fair, Chatham
Details: 518-392-2121; www.columbiafair.com