May 2020: 20 Folk Artists/20 Days

May 2020: 20 Folk Artists/20 Days

On May 1, 2020, New York Folklore and folklore programs across New York State will launch a collaboration to present traditional arts and culture from throughout New York State. Each weekday in May, from 4:00 -4:30 p.m., traditional arts activities will be presented through a livestream from New York Folklore’s Facebook page:

“May 2020: 20 Folk Artists/20 Days” amplifies the artistic excellence found within New York’s communities. To view this daily initiative, simply tune in to New York Folklore’s Facebook page each weekday in May from 4:00 – 4:30 p.m. to experience a free, live-streamed event by one of New York State’s folk artists or tradition bearers.

The initiative showcases the artistic excellence and diversity of traditional arts and culture in New York State. Folk arts and cultural expressions are nurtured and perpetuated within communities. They are shared by those who have common regional affiliations, ethnic heritage, occupations, avocational interests, gender, and many other identifiers of interconnection. Artistic excellence is determined by a shared community aesthetic with innovation occurring within the bounds of the interests and concerns of the shared community.

Partners:  Coordinating and partnering organizations from throughout New York State include the following:   New York State Fiddlers Hall of Fame, Glow Traditions, Long Island Traditions, Los Pleneros de la 21, Arts Mid-Hudson, Brooklyn Arts Council, Arts Westchester, Center for Traditional Music and Dance, Rochester Institute of Technology, and The Association for Cultural Equity (ACE). Presenting folklorists and cultural scholars include Karen Canning, Andrew Cowell, Hannah Davis, Julia Gutíerrez-Rivera, Elinor Levy, Jorge Arévalo Mateus, Ellen McHale, Chris Mulé, Aaron Paige, Naomi Sturm-Wijesinghe, Emily Socolov, Valerie Walawender, and Christine Zinni.



Annually, Grupo Folklórico de Poughkeepsie (GFP) brings the culture of Oaxaca, Mexico to the Hudson Valley at its La Guelaguetza festival. La Guelaguetza festival celebrates the unique folklore of Oaxaca, Mexico, which is a region of Mexico noted for its various indigenous communities.

The festival provides a window into authentic Oaxacan dance, music, and food, that is held in “Oaxakeepsie” (the nickname given to Poughkeepsie because of its large number of Oaxacan immigrants). GFP began presenting La Guelaguetza in 2008, as a grassroots effort to bring the festival to the local community.

The festival begins with a parade of all the dancers, dressed in colorful traditional costumes and led by the Corn Goddess. Each group represents a different region of Oaxaca. Because La Guelaguetza is a celebration of harvest and sharing, offerings of  fruit and flowers are shared with the audience throughout the festival.

After the introductory parade, the dancing and music begins. The colorful costumes and traditional props are breathtaking. Bilingual masters of ceremony provide the festival’s context by introducing and explaining the meaning of the dances. The lively dance performances and live music allow the audience to see, hear, and participate in the traditional customs of Oaxaca, Mexico.


La Guelaguetza Poughkeepsie is truly a community effort.  GFP (under the direction of Felipe Santos) works with Arts Mid-Hudson and Dutchess County Tourism to provide this festival free to the thousands of people who enjoy it. La Guelaguetza  immerses enthusiasts of traditional music and dance in the rich traditions of Mexico’s Oaxaca state.  In 2020, the festival will take place on Sunday August 2, at Waryas Park on the Hudson River waterfront.  Please follow them on Facebook

Stable Views

Stable Views

My introduction to the racetrack and its world of racing began in 1996, as I was asked by the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame at Saratoga Springs, New York, to conduct an ethnographic study of the “backstretch”. I received an Archie Green Fellowship in Occupational Folklore from the Folklife Center of the Library of Congress in 2012, which allowed me to expand my research beyond New York State to include racetracks and stables in Kentucky, Florida, and Louisiana. The entire project resulted in a traveling exhibition and a book published by the University Press of Mississippi, Stable Views: Stories and Voices from the Thoroughbred Racetrack (2015).

The thoroughbred racetrack serves as a centerpiece of a unique world of work, with specialized roles and tasks, specific language and vocabulary, rituals, and a shared knowledge and history among the people who make the race meets occur. Those who work at the racetrack in its various roles make up a distinctive occupational folk group.

For my research, I sought to interview individuals in as many different occupational roles as possible, and to especially seek out individuals who had long time family involvement in thoroughbred horseracing. I interviewed those who worked directly with the horses, especially those who were part of small stables of fewer than twenty horses. A trend towards the involvement of entire families in racetrack professions permeates the entire racing world. As an Archie Green Fellow, I encountered many instances of spouses, children, and other members of a worker’s extended family working within the backstretch or in allied occupations. Such is the case with farrier Ray Amato and his family:

“I’m just shy of 80 years old and I’m still working which is very odd in this business…
After I learned and got on my own and got going and established pretty good in the industry,
my dad taught my brother Tony
Then I taught my brother Paddy.
Then I taught my son, Ray, Jr.
And I taught by nephew Chris.
And they’re all doing good too. Good horseshoers… Only in the thoroughbred industry and they turned out to be good horseshoers.” 1

-Ray Amato

Sources Cited:
McHale, Ellen. 2015. Stable Views: Stories and Voices from the Thoroughbred Racetrack.
Jackson: University Press of Mississippi

Interview with Ray Amato, Florida, 2012.

Wreath Making With Molyneaux Tree Farm

Wreath Making With Molyneaux Tree Farm

Busy tree growers Gene and Staci Molyneaux made time to share their knowledge with us during a wreath-making workshop at the Bundy Museum of Art and History in Binghamton on Friday, Dec. 7. Twenty participants filled the small space with limbs and trimmings and needles as the Molyneauxs guided them through the process. After clipping branches and grouping uniform sprigs into bunches, participants worked with Gene to use a special crimping machine to affix them to a wreath ring. Staci showed us how to make big, beautiful bows.

For tree growers, making wreaths is a clever way to maximize profit. Trees’ lower branches, which are usually removed before trees are sold, pile up and often go unused. Especially because growing trees requires a considerable time investment (each takes 7-10 years to mature), piles of unused branches suggest wasted resources.

Gene and Staci own Molyneaux Plantation and Tree Farm in rural Broome County, where they grow a variety of Christmas trees and blueberries. Gene’s father, Richard, or “Pa,” established the farm after returning home from fighting in World War 2. His first trees were planted in 1948. He later established the Broome County Christmas Tree Growers Association. Pa passed away in 2017 at the age of 97, but Gene and Staci have continued his legacy of conservation education.

While making their wreaths, workshop participants sampled traditional Christmas cookies. Their variety reflects Broome County’s diversity and longtime history as a destination for those immigrating to the United States.

Alfajores, prepared by Ana Luckert of The Peruvian Bakery, are Latin American sandwich cookies made with dulce de leche. Ana sells a variety of traditional Peruvian foods year-round at the the Broome County Regional Farmers Market.

Zázvorníky, prepared by Dan McLarney of Czech Pleeze, are unique Czecho-Slovak ginger cookies that must dry overnight before they are baked.

No upstate gathering is complete without an Italian cookie tray, of course! Ours was prepared by Di Rienzo Bros. Bakery, owned and operated by third-generation bakers Carmen and Anthony Di Rienzo.