As the days grow longer and the season grows warmer, more people are getting outside to enjoy the beauty of Albany County.
To mark the occasion, the Mohawk-Hudson Land Conservancy is celebrating with its third annual Summer Solstice event along the Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail. The summer celebration has typically been held along the trail only in the Town of Bethlehem. This year, musical acts, food and activities will also be extended into the Village of Voorheesville, which opened its portion of the rail trail last year.
“The event started out as a celebration to help promote the rail trail as not only a local treasure, but a regional destination,” said MHLC Developmental Director Lea Montalto-Rook.
As awareness of the rail trail grew, so did the popularity of the summer solstice event. Last year’s theme was Fairytales and Fireflies, since the trail walk was held in the evening to coincide with the actual solstice. The date and time was changed this year so more people would be able to attend.
Kathy McCarthy, a volunteer with the MHLC, said a lot more people wanted to attend in past years, but it was hard with the solstice being on a weeknight. Others typically would have to leave early.
To fix the problem, this year’s celebration will be held on Sunday, June 22, from noon to 3 p.m. There will be three access points: the intersection of Adams Street and Hudson Avenue in Delmar, Fireman’s Park in Slingerlands and the newly opened western terminus of the trail at Voorheesville Avenue in Voorheesville. In order to ensure all visitors can participate in all the events, a shuttle will be available to bring people to each access point.
“We found the one-mile stretch could be too long for children, so we decided to include the shuttle so people could enjoy all the festivities,” said McCarthy.
The afternoon will include performances by musicians and dancers, baby animals, food vendors, nature walks and some history discussions. For the children, there are typically games, crafts and face painting.
At this year’s event, the community will also be asked to take part in creating a special piece of art.
“We are going to create a community mural — printed on vinyl so that it can travel,” said Montalto-Rook. “We commissioned Bethlehem artist, Ellie Prakken, to create a mural representing the rail trail.”
Community participants will then work together to complete the project, with fair attendees asked to create the leaves for the murals trees. Montalto-Rook said once it is complete, the mural will go on tour to town halls and libraries before being displayed at the Albany Visitor’s Center until June 2015.
MHLC Executive Director Mark King said he thinks the Summer Solstice celebration will be bigger and better than ever before.
“I think the event reflects the momentum the entire rail trail project has now that things are moving forward,” said King. “The pace is quickening, and we can’t wait for the improvements that are going to take place over the next year.”
Montalto-Rook said the event provides a chance for people to explore the rail trail who have never visited before. She said the trail is not only a great recreational opportunity, but will eventually provide another way for people to commute from their local communities into the City of Albany.
“It’s also a nice, little pocket of nature right in our backyard,” she said.
The Summer Solstice celebration will be held on Sunday, June 22, from noon to 3 p.m. in Delmar, Slingerlands and Voorheesville.