Sinterklaas

What is a kid-friendly event leading up to Christmas? What event would anyone feel comfortable at? It combines traditions of multiple cultures and appeals to all age groups? It is Sinterklaas.

The original tradition of Sinterklaas was imported by Dutch settlers to the Hudson Valley over 300 years ago. Rhinebeck and Kingston, NY, which both had Dutch settlers back in the day have modern takes on the festival that are nondenominational and inclusive. All are welcome.

When

Both Kingston and Rhinebeck, NY have this festival and parade. In 2019 Kingston’s festival and parade is on Saturday, November 24th from 12 to after dark. Rhinebeck’s Sinterklaas festival is on Saturday, December 7th. They close down Market Street most of the day in Rhinebeck for this event.

They sell a variety of items in tents along the street including luminaries and head wreaths.
Events

Activities abound throughout the day. There are many events for children at both locations. Some involve crafts. In Rhinebeck they had story time, The Pocket Lady, the Snow Queen and King, and other activities. I attended the event in Rhinebeck in 2018. There were events happening simultaneously at different locations around Rhinebeck so I could not catch everything. That gives you options to choose from. Check the calendar of events when it comes out.

Batala performing in front of Beekman Arms, America’s oldest operating inn.

They also had a variety of music events in churches around town and outside along Route 9 and other locations.

Performers in front of Beekman Arms on Route 9.
One of the performances held inside a church
Food
Gigi Trattoria’s food table on the street. This restaurant has great gluten-free pizza.

Rhinebeck has some nice restaurants that are open all day to stop in. Last year an Italian restaurant on Route 9, Gigi Trattoria, had some amazing hot chocolate. Another restaurant, Foster’s , had a food truck with London Broil sandwiches, clam chowder and other items. I had no issues eating a late lunch at an Indian restaurant on Market Street. There were tables available.

Parade

Everything culminates after dark with a parade. Many objects are illuminated. Different cultures and traditions are represented.

Chinelos Dancing from Mexico- This is event is multicultural and inclusive.
Dressing for the occasion

This event is worth driving to and seeing as much as you can. I was there most of the day in Rhinebeck. If you have children, its a can’t miss event. I highly recommend it for people from NYC and elsewhere looking to have a day or weekend escape from the rat race in the country.

Sinterklaas in the Dutch tradition. He wears bishop like clothing.
More Information

For more information check these websites out or search for another closer to the event. As of when I posted this only the dates were listed not the schedule of events for 2019.

For Kingston’s Sinterklaas: http://www.sinterklaashudsonvalley.com/sinterklaas-kingston/

For Rhinebeck’s Sinterklaas: http://www.sinterklaashudsonvalley.com or check out their Facebook page.

The Green Man

It resembles a man, but is surrounded by leaves or other plant life. It may have branches or vines protruding from its mouth or nose. It is seen on different pub signs and as grotesques on buildings or churches. What is it? It is the Green Man.

Oxford University- More of a man.

Although it can be seen in other cultures, the Green Man can be spotted around England. There are at least three Green Man Pubs in London and more are elsewhere. Several colleges at Oxford have the symbol on a door or as a grotesque on the side of a building. Churches and cathedrals in different counties have the Green Man decorating their edifice.

More a plant- Oxford

Although the true meaning may be unknown, there are many theories about it. Some see the Green Man as a symbol of rebirth or growth in spring. Others see it as a symbol of man’s reliance on nature. Another theory is it is a reminder that death awaits us all. One Christian interpretation is that the foliage coming from the mouth represents the life giving breath of the Holy Spirit. Other ideas about the meaning exist as well.

Magdalen College Oxford

Whatever their meaning or purpose, they are interesting to find. Look them up on the web and see where some of them are located. This site lists some locations: click here. If you are planning a trip to one of these areas, stop in and find one.

Dorset Road Signs

I have seen sign posts in England at road junctions in different counties that mark the way to go as you are driving. Many consist of fingerposts to show the direction to different points of interest or villages. In the county of Dorset, they have some that are more unique to that county. They have road signs topped with finials.

This is a finial without the cross bar. It is just a circle. In this case the top of the circle represents the Dorset County Council. The signs beneath points the direction of different villages or locations. According to the fingerpost pointing left, Dorchester is seven miles away.

The final is unique in appearance. Many are shaped like a London underground sign. While others are circular in shape. On the top part of the circle (on ones shaped like an underground sign) lists the county, Dorset, in case you are not sure. The bottom of the circle lists the grid reference. If it has a rectangular shape in the middle like a London Underground sign, it tells you the specific location of the sign.

The finial on top of this road sign is one shaped similar to the London Underground signs.
This road sign’s finial states its location as Black Down.
History

According to Colin and Susy Varndell, authors of The Natural Beauty of Dorset, many of these fingerpost road signs were removed in 1940. The government decided that these signs could aid the enemy if they invaded. Many of the signs were sent for scrap with the finials. Councils are replacing these signs and adding finals back on the top with help of individuals, parishes, companies, or groups.

A fingerpost on this sign directs you to a point of interest, the Hardy Monument.

While other counties may have a few of these, they seem to be more common in Dorset. When in Dorset, England see how many finials you can find when on your travels. It is something that makes Dorset unique.

This one is at a crossroads in the village of Briantspuddle, Dorset.

Hooley on the Hudson

A hooley is a party or an evening of traditional music and dance. The word originates in Ireland and Scotland. Kingston, New York has a day and night of modern and traditional Irish music and dance. They call it the Hooley on the Hudson.

This event takes place every year on Sunday of Labor Day weekend. It starts around mid-day and ends in early evening. It takes place in the area around lower Broadway in the downtown area along the creek.

Because the Hooley is right on the creek that empties into the Hudson River, people from other states arrange to park their boats for the weekend and watch the events from their decks. Kingston has spaces for visiting boaters at their marina. Cabin cruisers from upstate, New Jersey and Long Island were parked there this weekend. If you are a boater, this is an option for next year’s Hooley, but I am sure you would have to arrange this well in advance.

The streets are blocked off near the event and some restaurants put tables on the street. You can eat from the vendors or dine in one of the restaurants. They have vendors selling items from Ireland. Kingston has a paved path next to the creek that is lovely to stroll on. There are antique shops on lower Broadway a short walk from the celebration. This event is both dog and kid-friendly.

I was not in a good spot for this shot, but I could not get where I wanted to be. It was packed around the dance floor.

Unfortunately I did not have a lot of time at this event. Too busy catching up on other things in life. Here are some of the bands and dancers that performed on two of the stages. I never saw the third stage.

Happiness is playing Irish music.

Why an Irish celebration in September? They think of it as around half-way to St. Patty’s Day. The weather in NY is usually a lot nice in September as well. Its a fun event. It mixes more modern with traditional and it is in a lovely setting. If you are looking for something to do next Labor Day weekend head up to Kingston, NY and join the fun at the Hooley.

Lone bagpiper
Irish Setter at this dog-friendly event.

Animal Adventure Park

Did you take part in the baby watch for April the giraffe online? Have you ever wondered what zoo April was in? April is in Animal Adventure Park in central New York State about 15 minutes or more from Binghamton.

Animals
This is Johari. She is part of the new couple. As the sign says you can only feed her carrots.

The main draw at the zoo due to the live webcams in their barn has been the giraffes. The zoo has become famous worldwide as people went into baby watch mode for momma giraffe, April. She gave birth to Tajiri (15 April 2017) and Azizi (16 March 2019). There is a new giraffe couple, Oliver and Johari.

April and her two babies, Tajiri and Azizi.
This is the youngest baby of April, Azizi.

Animal Adventure Park is more than just giraffes. The park has over 250 animals with over 100 species represented. Some animals you can get fairly close to such as llamas, alpacas, giraffes, and sheep. Others you can view from behind tall fencing such as monkeys, lemurs, wolves, and white lions. Different continents are represented from the American black bear to Chilean flamingoes and from the Tibetan yak to the African warthog. Mammals, birds, and cold blooded creatures, this little zoo packs in a lot of variety.

Flamingoes watching the people go by. Are humans on display or are the animals?
Alligator enjoying the sun.
The official cat of the zoo. The story I heard from one of the employees was she came with the farm when they bought it. She acts like she is the owner of the zoo.
Feed the Animals

When you visit the zoo you will have opportunities to feed many of the animals. For $3 you can buy a handful of carrots to feed the giraffes or buy a cup full of pellets you can give to many of the animals. They also sell lettuce to feed the turtles and grapes to feed some of the other animals. The animals are quite happy to see you when you have food and it leads to many good photo or selfie opportunities. On my second trip I saw zoo keepers come out and let some children bottle feed some of the baby animals.

If the animals see you come close with food they will come right over to you. This appears to be an alpaca.
Animal Encounters

If you book in advance, you can participate in an animal encounters. These afford the visitor a little closer access to some of the animals. You get to feed them yourself and take pictures in a closer proximity than when you stroll around the zoo. A zoo keeper gives you all kinds of information about the animals. I was able to do the Sloth encounter. I feed them and took photos. They currently have one male and two females in hopes one of the females will breed.

One of the three sloths at the zoo.
Sloth snack time. Look no hands!
Handicap Accessible

I would say this zoo is fairly accessible. The paths/roadways within the zoo are wide and there are no stairs. On both visits I made to the zoo I saw people navigating the exhibits in wheelchairs. They also host a low sensory night for people with sensory issues.

Concessions

The zoo has a a few concession stands. They serve fast food items such as hamburgers, grilled cheese, chicken nuggets, chips, soda, and ice cream. If you have food sensitivities I would recommend bringing you own food in a cooler and leaving it in the car. You can leave the zoo and return with a hand stamp or receipt. This zoo is in a very rural area and there are no restaurants close by.

Gift Shop

Animal Adventure Park offers different animal related items in their gift shop and also through their online store. There are t-shirts, stuffed animals, etc. The t-shirts in the gift shop favor their main draw: giraffes, but there are others available online.

Location

This zoo is located at 85 Martin Hill Road in Harpursville, NY. On the route the GPS sent me there were no signs advertising Animal Adventure Park. It made me a little worried the first time I visited, but the Sat. Nav. took me to the right spot. This zoo is about 15 minutes or more northeast of Binghamton. I am told it is about a 3 hour drive from New York City and a 2 hour drive from the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge in the Hudson Valley.

Parking

I arrived before they opened both times I visited on a weekday during the summer. I was able to park in their lot at the zoo entrance. They do have overflow parking in another location nearby.

I highly recommend this little zoo. They appear to take great care of the animals and work with animals that are endangered or close to endangered. The zoo is very family-friendly and sponsors many events. If you love animals and want to see them up close make a trip to Animal Adventure Park.

For more information go to their website: https://theanimaladventurepark.com/park-info/ or https://theanimaladventurepark.com

Dock Dogs

What competitive sports are out there for your dog to participate in? Does your dog like water? Does your dog like to fetch? If so, you may want to consider training your dog to be involved in Dock Dogs.

Some dogs were new to the sport and had to have encouragement to get in the water.
What is it?

Dock Dogs is an aquatic sport for your canine friend. The category I have witnessed several times is the Big Air competition. The handler throws a toy off a dock towards a long pool of water. The dog jumps off the dock to try to catch or retrieve the toy. The dogs are judged on how far they jump. They measure the distance from the end of the deck to where the dog’s tail hits the water.

All these photos were taken at the Dock Dog events at the Dutchess County Fair in New York. This is an annual event at the Dutchess County Fair with competitions happening three times daily during the fair.
This guy almost caught the toy in mid air.
Who can participate?

This is open to dogs as young as 6 months old and handlers as young as 7 years of age.You would think the bigger the dog the farther they would go. However, as I witnessed, that is not necessarily the case. Some of the large dogs may only jump 5 feet while a smaller dog can top that. A medium size dog might go quite far. Regardless, the dogs all appear to be enjoying the competition win or lose.

Big Air
Canines of different breeds participated. Some were rescues as well.
Very focused
Other Events

I have only witnessed Big Air events, but Dock Dogs also has other competitions. They also have an Extreme Vertical event. Extreme Vertical is about how high upward the dog can launch to grab a bumper. A third event is the Speed Retrieve. This event is timed. The dog has to run, jump, and swim to the end of a pool to retrieve a bumper that is suspended over the water.

Does your dog love the water? Do they want to play fetch with you endlessly? Why not up the game? Involve them in Dock Dogs. Even if you don’t have a dog the events are a joy to watch.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

What is one dessert that you can associate with England? What dessert is found at many restaurants and pubs in England year round? One could say the answer to both of these questions is Sticky Toffee Pudding.

This is the Sticky Toffee Pudding they serve at the Cock and Bull, a British pub on 45th Street in New York City. This dessert includes chunks of hard almond toffee brittle on the side and a light cream on top. Although I love all the ones I tried in this post and my friends loved all the ones they tried, this is my personal favorite.
History

Although this dessert is associated with England it actually had its roots in Canada. The story behind it is during World War II two Canadian Air Force officers passed a recipe for sticky toffee pudding to a hotelier in Lancashire. The recipe was tweaked and the rest is history. It caught on in England and became popular. Many restaurants and pubs carry it.

This is from the Hole in the Wall pub in York, England.

It is a very rich, delicious dessert. Many people list this as their favorite. A few of my friends said they wanted to tour England and try the sticky toffee pudding at various pubs and restaurants along the way. They would call their tour the Sticky Toffee Pudding Tour.

This is from The Shakespeare, a high end pub on 39th Street in Manhattan, NYC. It came with ice cream.
Ingredients

What is it made of? It usually consists of date sponge cake drizzled in toffee sauce. Some people enjoy it with cream, while others enjoy it with ice cream. Some restaurants and pubs give you the option of accompanying it with cream, ice cream or whipped cream. It is rich and delicious.

Sticky Toffee Pudding at the Lillie Langtry in London

There are other options if you plan to make this at home. There are recipes for gluten-free versions online through different culinary websites. There are also websites carrying vegan recipes for this dessert.

This is the Sticky Toffee Pudding at the White Horse in Oxford, England. This was a personal favorite of a friend who joined me on my trip to Great Britain.

This is so popular that British pubs in the United States often have it as a regular item on their menus. The Shakespeare and the Cock and the Bull in Manhattan include it on their menu. Look up a recipe online or stop in to a British pub or restaurant. You will be happy you did.