Annual Pickle Festival In Ulster County Fairgrounds

courtesy of Greta Hahn

Pickles, most commonly a cucumber, sit in vinegar for an extended period of time, develop a sharp and savory taste, creating the pickle we all know and love. When does the pickling stop? Where is the line between a good crunchy snack and “you have too much time on your hands?” For some, there is no line and those people come to the International Rosendale Pickle Festival. Founded by Bill Brooks and his late wife, Cathy Brooks, this festival, that has been held for the past 26 years, is a place where all pickle-lovers can unite and bond over their collective passion of pickles. 

The Pickle Festival, previously held at the Rosendale Recreation Center, is had its first year at the Ulster County Fairgrounds. As the years passed and more people became involved in the festival, the rec center proved to no longer be a good fit. Victoria Coyne, Picklefest Ringleader of Creative Operations, explained, “We just did not fit there for everyone who wanted to come to the festival and we couldn’t even accommodate anyone even getting to the pickles, because it was so crowded.” Previously held outside, with tents as the barrier of the vendors and nature, the fairgrounds have roofed areas already built in, allowing for different sections of the festival to be established and protected from weather. This setting change allowed for over 40 more vendors this year.

Hosting over 140 vendors of all different backgrounds and passions, the Pickle Festival has become the perfect place for small businesses to introduce their product to new customers and build a community of fellow pickle lovers, most notably, Perry’s Pickles, run by Christina Pablo, Lyman’s Specialties, run by Lyman and Peg Powers and Kimchee Harvest, run by Jennifer Warren. The vendors weren’t the only thing available at this occasion. The festivities included a pickle juice drinking contest, an eating contest, a pickling contest and even a pickle triathlon. Coyne said that, “All you have to do is show up and say I want to be part of it and you get to. You don’t need to sign up beforehand.” All of this is made possible by the extensive team of people behind the festival. 

“You need a team it takes a village,” Coyne said. The Liggan family, most notably, Billy, who is involved in the farmers market and the street festival, provided notable assistance for the festival. The Obry family provided guidance for the pickling contest, and Riley Waddell organized and currently runs the festival’s social media. This is just a handful of names in a passion project made possible by many. 

The festival also prides itself on giving back to its community. Being a non-profit, the money that they earn beyond what they need for the fair, is given to local organizations who benefit from the donations. Coyne says being able to walk into town with a check is one of the most rewarding parts of the festival. The festival prides itself on being a unique celebration of a more niche food. “I just think it’s a quirky, funny kind of thing to have a party around and people are mostly very happy to be here,” Coyne says. But in the end, the festival is not only about pickles. It is about the people involved and the community it builds for those in the Hudson Valley area. It gives back to local organizations, promotes small businesses but above all, adds a sense of joy to a previously pickle-less community. A cherished event in our town, the Pickle Festival seeks to remind us that even something as simple as a couple enjoying pickled cucumbers, can make all the difference.