NISKAYUNA -- Even when Hillary Fink realized the impact COVID would have on the Congregation Agudat Achim’s annual Carrot Festival, canceling this year’s event still never crossed her mind.
She knew she had to keep it going for its 42nd year. So instead, she started thinking about how she could do it.
This year’s Sept. 13 event, titled Celebrating and Serving our Community, is doing just what its name implies. Fink, who is the festival chairperson, and other organizers are encouraging locals to take part in several community service aspects and offering a space -- albeit virtually -- for local vendors to sell their goods. And with pre-orders available, Fink and CAA have eliminated a lot of the concern surrounding holding the event during the pandemic.
“A lot of these vendors depend on events like the Carrot Festival throughout the year,” Fink said. “So the fact that we were able to offer it to them in some way, I mean, they won’t be able to come on the grounds and display their items because we are not encouraging gathering by any means, but you know, to be able to offer it to them [was huge].”
Pre-orders are available for the fest’s 70-plus vendors, its iconic carrot cake and bags of carrots, onions and other veggies will be available to purchase when locals pick up their goods on Sept. 13, to avoid anyone filing through and touching vegetables.
“I feel like what we came up with is a really good compromise,” Fink said. “Having the produce here that people can pick up and the cake and picking up their vendor items, those are three major parts of the festival. At least they're there. They're just there in a different way.”
Few other fall festivals have been able to navigate the pandemic like the Carrot Fest has. Albany’s annual LarkFest, the 2020 Adirondack Balloon Festival and the Little Italy StreetFest have all seen cancellations due to COVID and concerns surrounding large gatherings. Others like the Fonda Fair’s Convoy for a Cause are still seeing action this fall (Sept. 6). But overall, it’s been a difficult feat to accomplish.
Fink wants to add a few important causes in the mix, starting with a push for attendees to help local businesses.
“There’s a list that we are putting together of small businesses and restaurants to encourage people to go and support them during that week,” Fink said. “Again, since we won't have anything going on on our grounds, we're trying to do what we can to help the community and, of course, the small businesses who are suffering. So anybody who gives us their business name and contact information will be included on that list that's going online, in addition to being printed to give out to anybody who does the drive-through on the grounds that day.”
And as for the community service aspects, the festival is partnering with the United Way of the Greater Capital Region to offer all types of opportunities from Sept. 13-20.
“We're working with community organizations,” Fink said. “We're coming up with projects for us for not only our competence but the community at large to do between September 13 and September 18. So people will be able to go online and sign up to go out in the community and volunteer so that's a big piece. And, of course, it's offering a CDTA bus to stuff with donations to the Animal Protective Foundation, Bethesda House, The MoonCatcher Project, and RISSE.”
For a head start at CAA’s virtual vendors, or to reserve a slice of carrot cake, visit www.agudatachim.org/carrot-