ONEIDA — The 57th Madison County Craft Festival is a community staple, and an outpouring of support from its attendees and vendors is proof of that.
In the wake of COVID-19, the Madison County Craft Festival was one of few events that carried on while following all state guidelines. And though it was a fun-filled day, it did have some caveats. “Last year, we were required by the CDC and then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo to operate at a 33% capacity,” MCHS Executive Director Sydney Loftus said. “That included artisans, food trucks, volunteers, staff, board members, and more. We followed the restrictions and held the show.”
Loftus was happy they could bring the show to the community last year, but she’s been blown away by the response from the community this year.
“We were happy to have a Craft Festival last year, and our artisans were happy to be able to sell their goods and their beautiful wares, but it was a show that was adapting to a global pandemic,” Loftus said. “I’m just so proud of the turnout and that the community is rallying for us this year, supporting the Historical Society and the hard-working artisans.”
This year, the Craft Festival wasn’t limited by capacity. Masks were encouraged for the unvaccinated, hand sanitizer stations were available at various locations, and social distancing was encouraged at booths.
Loftus added that she was so happy to see new artisans and returning artisans who took a pause last year during the pandemic.
Among those returning was Mark and Richelle Grove of Grove Gourmet by Apple Grove Farm out of Mexico, N.Y.
“We started as an apple farm years ago,” Mark said. “But we loved to cook and make those things like apple butter and apple cider vinegar.”
Grove Gourmet sells all manner of infused olive oil blends, marinades, vinaigrettes, sauces, and more at events all over New York. Mark said they sold the farm and now do this full time, so events like the Craft Festival are important.
He and his wife made the trip out to Oneida last year since the Craft Festival was one of the few actually open.
“Last year, everything was canceled,” Mark said. “I think we only had three shows and seeing as how we do this full-time, it was pretty devastating. We were lucky we were considered essential, so we were able to jump into the farmer’s markets.”
Besides the Craft Festival, Mark said they participated in the Madison County Historical Society’s weekly farmer’s market during the pandemic. So when the 57th Craft Festival came around, the Groves had a choice between it and another festival — and they chose Madison County.
“We felt a sense of loyalty to the Historical Society,” Mark said. “They had the guts to put the show on last year and did it successfully... We really enjoyed it here and liked that it was for a good cause and it was all volunteer. And they were there for us.
At the time, Grove said they needed every show they could get, and the Craft Festival last year went above and beyond to ensure the safety of its artisans and guests — masks, hand sanitizer, temperature checking, and more.
Mark added that many other events in New York are still canceling due to COVID-19 and that they’ll be coming to the Craft Festival next year.
“Many words come to mind when we talk about this global pandemic, and it’s safe to say we’re still adapting,” Loftus said. “But we need to live our lives to the fullest and partake in the activities that are around us. These are things that add to our quality of life.”
“So the Historical Society is happy to be able to carry on this craft show while following the guidelines, make it safe and enjoyable,” she added.
Loftus invited people to the upcoming 25th annual Madison County Hop Fest Friday, Sept. 17, and Saturday, Sept. 18.
Friday, the Hop Fest will take place at Foothill Hops Brewery at 6 p.m. and feature a four-course paired beer dinner constructed by HipStir Cafe’s executive chef, Jennifer DiGiorgio. Tickets for the paired beer dinner are $75Tickets can be purchased online at madisoncountyhopfest.org, HipStir Café, or Foothill Hops Farm Brewery.
Saturday, the Hop Fest will feature Hop Heritage programs at the Oneida Public Library from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. On the Madison County Historical Grounds, starting at 10 a.m., there will be hop exhibits, hop shop, homebrewing demonstrations, exhibitors, raffles, food, live music, and more. Tickets required for craft beer sampling — $30 advance or $35 at the door.
Loftus said Hop Fest this year would require proof of vaccination — a decision made with safety in mind. “This is a decision we felt was the best course of action to take,” she said.