Saturday, September 26, 2009

Hudson River Fair

Stern of the replica ship Half Moon, Albany, New York, 26 September 2009.

Today, my friend Sean and I went to the Hudson River Fair, which was held in Albany's Corning Preserve to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's voyage up the river that now bears his name. The event featured a little something for everyone. The Scions of Patria, a group of seventeenth-century Dutch colonial re-enactors offered cooking, metal-working, and other demonstrations Representatives of the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians, which was relocated to Wisconsin in the early 19th century, discussed the group's history (we had a nice talk with a representative of the group's veterans organization) and offered traditional dance and drum performances. There were lots of musical performances and activities for kids (e.g., face-painting).

Of course, the star of the event was the Half Moon (Halve Maen), a modern replica of Hudson's ship. The Half Moon is usually docked in Albany at least 3 or 4 times each summer, but owing to the Hudson-Fulton-Champlain Quadricentennial, it hasn't spent much time in Albany this year. People waited in line as long as two hours in order to get a chance to tour the ship, and by the time we got there the ticket sellers were turning everyone away.

We then walked through the Corning Preserve, and I was struck yet again by the city's capacity to surprise me. I've lived in Albany for fifteen years and have seen the SUNY Central building, which occupies a prominent position in downtown Albany, on countless occasions. However, it never crossed my mind that it would be visible from the Corning Preserve.

We also passed the mysterious twin zigurrats of the city's present-day Hudson River Pumping Station facility. The original pumping facility is now home to a fine brewpub, the Albany Pump Station.

We did get the chance to tour the Peacemaker, which was built in the 1980s for a Brazilian industrialist and which is now owned by the Twelve Tribes, a religious community with a substantial presence in the lower Hudson Valley. Members of the group were on hand to answer questions about the ship, which they see as a means of demonstrating their commitment to living and working in unity, and their lifestyle and beliefs (which have been the subject of controversy).

Part of the rigging of the Peacemaker. Tall ships are so beautiful . . . .

One of the Peacemaker's crow's nests, as seen from the upper deck.

We also caught most of the Skip Parsons Riverboat Jazz Band's top-notch set at Albany Riverfront Park, which is part of the Corning Preserve.

What a great day! According to my friend Edward, who periodically crews on the Half Moon and was helping to lead tours today (he's the fellow in the orange shirt standing at the end of the gangplank in the photograph above), there's talk of making the Hudson River Fair an annual event. Here's hoping . . . .

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