Dairy festival plans post-COVID return

·3 min read

Jun. 3—Signs shaped like cows promoting the Meredith Dairy Festival can be seen throughout several towns in Delaware County after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The festival began around 1999 or 2000 and was held for several years as a fundraiser for the Meridale Fire Department until the organizers "retired and went to Florida," Shirley Niebanck, chair of the organizing committee, said. It was revitalized 2017 by another group of volunteers and was held until the pandemic canceled it in 2020.

The festival, which celebrates dairy farming in the county, will return to 3575 Honest Brook Road in Meredith, just off the Catskill Turnpike and state Route 28 in Meredith, next Saturday and Sunday, June 11, and 12. The festival will begin at 10 a.m. and end at 5 p.m. both days.

"June is Dairy Month," Niebanck said. "We're losing a lot of agriculture in our county. I want people to become enthusiastic about dairy farms again."

She said there will be a dairy tent run by a local FFA chapter, where people can interact with cows, calves, dairy ambassadors and dairy princess and make their own butter. FFA was formerly known as Future Farmers of America until shortening its name to FFA in 1988. People can also sample dairy products and buy a guess along a 20-foot by 20-foot grid as to where a cow will relieve herself in "cow plop bingo," she said.

In addition to the dairy tent, two tents with 20 vendors in each will be set up selling a variety of crafts and services, the Watershed Agricultural Council will sponsor a tent filled with Pure Catskills farms selling a variety of products, and there will be food vendors, Niebanck said.

There will be live music both days and a tractor pull on Sunday. Local Girl Scouts will coordinate children's activities, such as sack races, she said. "Come on over and have a good time and support some local organizations," she said.

There will also be a historical display by the Delaware County Historical Association. One of the largest and most prosperous dairy farms in the county was the world-renowned Meridale Farms. According to the Meredith Historical Society's website, the farm was known for its Jersey herd of cows, it supplied butter to the U.S. Navy and had an exhibit at the 1939 World's Fair. The former Meridale Farm lands surround the site of the festival.

The festival has been sponsored by about 50 businesses either by a monetary or in-kind donation, Niebanck said. Each business sponsor receives a cow sign with their name on it to place near their business. Most signs are white with black and red lettering, however, there are two brown cow signs with black and red lettering at a working dairy farm along state Route 28 in Meredith. Other cow signs are lined up along the intersection of state Route 28 and Catskill Turnpike Road.

Entrance to the festival is $5 to park or $1 to walk in, she said.

Proceeds from the festival will be donated to the Meridale, East Meredith, Delhi and Treadwell fire departments, Niebanck said. "I love the volunteer aspect of this event," she said. There are between six and eight volunteers who plan the event, but on the day of the event, the volunteer numbers grow, she said. "Members of the fire department help with car parking," she said.

Vicky Klukkert, staff writer, can be reached at vklukkert@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7221. Follow her @DS_VickyK on Twitter.