The 14th Annual Cauliflower Festival took place in Margaretville on Saturday. Festival organizers speculated that some of the visitors present this year had come specifically for the small town’s agricultural event from more than 150 miles away.
“We have a lot of Connecticut people,” said Carol O’Beirne, executive director of the Central Catskills Chamber of Commerce and the festival’s event coordinator.
Cauliflower has a historical significance for the town of Middletown, within which Margaretville is an incorporated village. A municipal parking lot now occupies the area where a former cauliflower auction site was in operation until 1950, when it was destroyed by a flood, according to Diane Galusha, the president of the Middletown Historical Society.
The destruction of the auction facility was the “symbolic if not the actual end of large scale commercial cauliflower growing in the Catskills,” Galusha said. In Middletown, cauliflower is still grown but in smaller quantities, and the vegetable still has a persistence as a niche upon which the annual festival is currently based. “This is our particular unique aspect of farming history,” Galusha said.
Among the many tents and booths at the festival, a tent was set up by Pure Catskills, the marketing arm of the Watershed Agricultural Council, to house nine vendors for interactions with the public. The vendors included such businesses as Byebrook Farm, Dirty Girl Farm, Tree Juice and Union Grove Distillery. The Pure Catskills branding campaign has been around since 2004, and has a relationship with the Caulifower Festival and with the local chamber of commerce, according to Kristan Morley, an economic viability program manager at the agricultural council.
Vendors said they capitalize on the exposure that events such as the festival provide.
“A good deal of promotional strategy is at these festivals,” said Todd Pascarella, an owner of Union Grove Distillery, a manufacturer of spirits in Arkville. “It’s seasonal. In the summer we can take advantage of these outdoor festivals.” Pascarella referenced an event in Sharon Springs, the Hudson Valley Food and Wine Festival and Taste of the Catskills in Delhi as other festivals at which his business is represented.
There were other attractions at the festival.
Rick Roberts, president of the Catskill Mountain Club, was on hand to promote the Catskill Park’s 350 miles of trails for hiking and biking. When asked if hiking is on the increase, he said that it was, and that there were certain telltale signs. “We’ve seen a lot more usage of the trails, which unfortunately we find out about because of the amount of litter that is on the trails,” he said, adding that the club had been spending time educating hikers about “leaving no trace.”
O’Beirne said that many foreign visitors to the area were especially keen on the prospects of hiking.
Burr Hubbell of Kelly Corners brought out an old automobile, a 1907 Maxwell, to display to the crowds at the festival. Hubbell explained that the car had been in his family since 1907 when it was purchased by his great-great-uncle Burr Hubbell. The car sat dormant for many years until the late 1970s when it was refurbished, and Hubbell confirmed that the car is road-worthy.
When asked about the attraction of the Margaretville area for tourists, Hubbell said, “I think it’s that we’re close to New York City and yet it’s a completely different rural environment.”