Picklefest’s 22nd year a triumph - BlueStone Press
October 21, 2020

Picklefest’s 22nd year a triumph

Pickles thrive despite the rain


The weekend before Thanksgiving, the rain did little to stem the tide of people attending the Rosendale International Pickle Festival’s 22nd run. “It was a muddy mess,” according to Victoria Coyne. But the weather might have had an unintended benefit this year. “It really worked out great,” Coyne explained, “the crowd was down but the people got to shop more.”

The low numbers were still quite impressive by any standard. Over 1,500 people came to enjoy the banquet of pickles and support the community, despite the weather. Many also attended to honor the memory of both Kathy Brooks, one of Picklefest’s founders, and Anita Peck, a prominent member of the community.

Most people in the area know Bill and Kathy Brooks. Most also know that they are the ones responsible for the festival and its continued success. What some might not know is that the festival began as a welcoming party. Ari Yamaguchi, a frequent participant in the festival, visited Bill and Kathy 22 years ago, telling them that she would soon be bringing a group of dignitaries from Japan. “Oh, they like pickles,” said Yamaguchi as she boarded the plane.

As Bill and Kathy planned the party, this mentioning of pickles continued to rumble around their thoughts, and so the first Picklefest began as a cultural exchange using the universal language of food. Bill and Kathy Brooks set about organizing the party with help from the community. From planning the festival to passing out fliers, they built the event with the intent of showing their visitors a warm welcome. “We made it up as we went along,” said Bill Brooks with a laugh. Despite winging it, Bill and Kathy found themselves with 900 people at their first event. After realizing that they had stumbled onto something special, they kept the festival going.

Throughout the festival’s 22 years, cultural exchange has remained a central theme. While strolling through the stalls, one could find a diverse network of dishes. Food from every continent (save for the one with the penguins) was on display along with a various collection of art and clothing. Ari Yamaguchi, the aforementioned pickle magnate, even sold 15 kimonos that she brought directly from Japan. The proceeds will be donated along with the other profits made from Picklefest in memory of Kathy Brooks.

It is in this way that the Rosendale Pickle Festival has managed to tread the line between an international event and community gathering. In the past, Pcklefest has given back to the community in a number of ways.

“The proceeds always go back into the community,” Brooks explained. From the library and the pool to the food pantry and the recreation center, Picklefest has always brought its international origins to the benefit of Rosendale’s community. Over the years, the festival has managed to raise over $150,000. Rosendale has also done its part to help the festival continue and grow. “There have to be 100 volunteers for this to work,” said Brooks.

The festival has continued to grow and develop in other ways as well. This year two more pickle-themed prizes were added. Best presentation and most colorful booth awards were both handed out with the intention of encouraging vendors to give some thought to how their stalls are shown.

Ultimately this festival has always been and will continue to be exactly what it says in the name and this year was no exception. Despite terrible weather, people still came in droves to enjoy some food with friends and family.

“It’s all around having a good time,” Brooks explained. “The money is secondary.”


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