Many festivals and special events a no-go at parks and historic sites this year
CAPITAL REGION There will be visitors to the Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site this year, but not for the site’s annual festival celebrating the community and the Erie Canal.
Canal Days at Schoharie Crossing will not be happening this year because staff at the site didn’t have enough time to plan the annual event.
To the east, the Schuyler Mansion in Albany won’t be hosting its big Fourth of July celebration because of a lack of planning time.
Both sites were among the 41 parks and 14 historic sites statewide to close to help close an expected $8 billion state budget gap.
However, legislative deal-making allowed the parks and historic sites to open for the Memorial Day holiday, the unofficial start to the busy summer season at many of the sites.
Despite reopening, some local sites were unable to prepare for their big summer events because many musicians, historical re-enactors and vendors need to be booked in the winter or early spring, a time when the status of the sites was unknown.
Canal Days is a large community festival in Fort Hunter that typically draws 4,000 people for the weekend.
Site manager Janice Fontanella said the food vendors, crafters, musicians, re-enactors and other entertainers needed to make the event happen at Schoharie Crossing have already been booked elsewhere.
Schoharie Crossing has been participating in Canal Days for at least 23 years, Fontanella said. The event is put on in conjunction with the Fort Hunter Fire Department, which is still planning events for July 10 and 11, she said.
The same situation occurred at the Schuyler Mansion in Albany, where the Fourth of July celebration traditionally includes an open house, an 18th century magician and readings of the Declaration of Independence. There was too little time to set it up.
Despite a few local cancellations, Dan Keefe, spokesman for the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, said there are still hundreds of events planned at the state’s 213 parks and historic sites.
“The staff is working very hard to get the park system operating fully,” he said. “The calendar of events at our website has something every weekend, every day even.”
Events and activities will progress as usual at the Johnson Hall State Historic Site in Johnstown, according to Darlene Rogers.
Rogers said the hall’s site manager retired this year so the staff had planned to “tone down” the programs and offerings anyway.
The major obstacle was how to get the Mettawee River Theater Company to give its popular annual performance — original plays using masks and puppetry on the Johnson Hall lawn.
Rogers said the Friends of Johnson Hall agreed to fund the performance even if the hall was closed. The theater company is scheduled to perform Aug. 5.
Fall activities planned at the Schuyler Mansion will still be held, and Fontanella said she “certainly hopes” Schoharie Crossing will participate in Canal Days next year.