The Meatpacking District’s Harvest Fest by Andrea Santo Felcone

This past Saturday the weather was absolutely perfect to explore the Meatpacking District’s 5th annual, Harvest Fest. Fall had outdone herself; it was a crisp, colorful, clear day. A dear friend met me at New York’s Penn Station for the trip over to the Meatpacking District. She’s a New Yorker through and through, so I let her lead the way, and when she asked if I wanted to walk or ride the subway, I chose the walk. She’s the kind of friend, who you can get lost in conversation with, and soon enough we found ourselves in the Meatpacking District, (at Hudson River Park’s 14th Street Park), in front of a gorgeous archway that leads you into Harvest Fest. HarvestFestArchway

I liked the size of the event; it didn’t overwhelm, as many Fall festivals do. (Sometimes a girl just wants a caramel apple, a hay bale, and some nice music, and not all the insanity of some of the Fall festivals you have today.) I would say it was the perfect size for families, especially those with small children. There were booths set-up in a circle around a grassy area where various activities were held. We watched some children enjoying a yoga class—downward dog seemed to be a popular pose. And I noticed the activity board announced a pet costume contest, a dance class, and a Zumba fitness routine would be coming later in the afternoon. It looked like a great way to get in a little physical activity, especially for the kids. HarvestFestKidsYoga

We began to explore the booths, and what was featured was an interesting mix of local and regional businesses and artisans. We tested out a Virtual Reality experience—a first for me. As we waited for our turn, I could not help but notice the woman in front of us, with her arms straight up in the air. (It turned out she was on the virtual rollercoaster, and not at a virtual bank robbery, as I had guessed). When it was our turn, I chose the mild ocean scene (for beginners); my friend opted for that rollercoaster. We both enjoyed the experience, and I would definitely try it again.

Next, we tasted a sample soup from “Fig & Olive”. Their carrot and ginger soup (with turmeric) was amazing—and I’m not really a ginger fan. They have several locations, and you can taste that soup for yourself (for brunch) at their 13th street restaurant. (I’m still thinking about that soup, and it has been several days now.) After that fortification, we ventured on and found an interesting booth where they were accepting used denim jeans for the Madewell + “Blue Jeans Go Green” initiative. If you recycle your jeans (any brand, any color) at any Madewell store, the jeans will be turned into housing insulation for communities in need. We got to feel a sample of blue jean insulation and it was soft yet substantial. Madewell will even give you $20.00 off a new pair of jeans at their stores, if you participate in the denim recycling initiative. Their Meatpacking District store is located at: 69 Gansevoort Street. Sounds like a great way to give those old jeans a new life.

HarvestFestDogBlessingThere were many dogs in attendance, no doubt, for the promised Himalayan dog blessings that were taking place at the festival. My friend pointed me to The Rubin Museum of Art’s booth, and told me she was convinced that is where the dogs were being blessed, as The Rubin is a museum dedicated to the art and cultures of the Himalayas, India, and its neighboring regions. I was looking forward to seeing a “Himalayan dog blessing” since I’m trying to expand my scope of new experiences. Unfortunately, when we arrived at The Rubin’s booth, there were no dogs. However, this gave us time to chat with a lovely woman who was going to bless the dogs, once they arrived. She told us a bit about the ceremony and provided literature. Apparently, the Tihar Dog Honoring Ceremony originated in Nepal, and each day of Tihar (a five-day festival of light) is devoted to honoring a different entity. On the second day of Tihar the mythological and real relationships between humans and dogs is the major focus. Dog owners thank their dogs as guardians of their homes, by bestowing flower garlands on them, and marking their heads with a vermillion paste (in this case, it was a yogurt and food coloring mixture). The dogs finally arrived, and they were all extremely compliant as they were honored. I may have been imagining things, but it seemed the dogs held their heads a little higher as they walked away from The Rubin Museum’s booth. I will definitely make a point to check out the museum on a future visit to the area. The Rubin is located at 150 West 17th Street and I was interested to see there is a “Mindfulness for Families” series beginning Sunday, November 12th.

We continued walking, enjoying the live bluegrass music, and then stopped to view some interesting photography from “Manhattan Sideways”. I really love the idea of this; it’s a photographic journey celebrating the small businesses of Manhattan’s side streets. If you have a little time, explore their website. It’s full of interesting articles, beautiful photos, and behind-the-scenes videos, highlighting small businesses and hidden gems of New York City: HarvestFestPostcard

Our last stop was a stroll through the nearby High Line (an elevated freight rail line that has been transformed into a public park) and a bite to eat at Chelsea Market (an enclosed urban food market featuring upscale delicacies). And then, because the weather was so spectacular, we meandered our way back to Penn Station. It was a really nice way to spend the day and I’m grateful to my friend for joining me and for the Meatpacking Business Improvement District (BID) for organizing this free and delightful festival. It has already become a local favorite, and I’m sure it will continue as a great way to celebrate the season.     

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