Kathy Welsh

Kathy Welsh

 

Previous Val-Kill Picnic & Square Dance in the Big Tent. Photo provided

Previous Val-Kill Picnic & Square Dance in the Big Tent. Photo provided

HYDE PARK – The Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Partnership issued an invitation to the organization’s fourth annual Picnic and Square Dance, Saturday, September 17, 2016, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Val-Kill, Route 9 G, in Hyde Park.

Winston Churchill and Eleanor Roosevelt at Val-Kill; Historic photo courtesy NPS

Winston Churchill and Eleanor Roosevelt at Val-Kill; Historic photo courtesy NPS

Tickets to the event are $20 adults or $5 kids (4 and under free), all inclusive of food and drinks, but must be purchased in advance at www.valkill.org (no tickets can be sold at the door).

The Val-Kill Picnic and Square Dance opens up the grounds of Val-Kill for the public to enjoy it the way the Roosevelts most loved to entertain there.  A highlight of this year’s event is the re-opening of the Roosevelt’s outdoor fireplace, where First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt cooked hot dogs for guests from royalty to local neighbors.  This year, guests wishing to cook their own hot dogs can do so and follow a long-standing Roosevelt tradition.

Family Friendly Activities include:

  • Val-Kill Picnic Fare by Chef’s Consortium including cook your own hot dog at the Roosevelt outdoor fireplace.
  • Val-Kill Industries hands-on craft demonstrations for kids and adults.
  • Children can earn their Val-Kill Junior Ranger badge with a National Park Service
  • Face painting
  • Guests can dance to period music and a square dancing performed and called by the Lightning Rods
  • Tour Stone Cottage Exhibits: “Eleanor Roosevelt: Emergence of a Political Leader
Franklin D. Roosevelt and actress Katherine Hepburn; Historic photo courtesy NPS/Corbis

Franklin D. Roosevelt and actress Katherine Hepburn; Historic photo courtesy NPS/Corbis

The Saturday, September 17th Picnic features much of the original Val-Kill picnic fare and recipes served by the Roosevelts, including the famous hot dogs served to King George VI & Queen Elizabeth of England.  The Roosevelt’s menu is given a fresh spin by Chefs’ Consortium. These New York based chefs are committed to promoting locally grown farm fresh food using Hudson Valley ingredients from area farms.

In its heyday, Val-Kill was the center of Roosevelt entertainment in Hyde Park.   Guests at Val-Kill often included the men and women behind the legislative blocks of the New Deal (Katherine Hepburn among them, see photo).  Politics blended with socializing at Val-Kill picnics — a mix that became a signature style of Roosevelt entertaining.  This “picnic diplomacy” style was a hallmark of Val-Kill activities and would extend to world dignitaries such as the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth of England, Winston Churchill, Crown Princess Märtha of Norway, and King George II of Greece.

Dancing at the 3rd Annual Val-Kill Picnic and Square Dance. Photo provided

Dancing at the 3rd Annual Val-Kill Picnic and Square Dance. Photo provided

Eleanor Roosevelt established Val-Kill Industries in 1927 with Nancy Cook, Marion Dickerman, and Caroline O’Day, three friends she met through her activities in the Women’s Division of the New York State Democratic Party. Eleanor and her business partners financed the construction of a small factory to provide supplemental income for local farming families who would make furniture, pewter, and homespun cloth using traditional craft methods. Capitalizing on the popularity of the Colonial Revival, most Val-Kill products were modeled on eighteenth-century forms.  A social experiment, Val-Kill Industries never became the subsistence program that Eleanor and her friends imagined, but it did pave the way for larger New Deal initiatives during FDR’s presidential administration.

Along with the festivities of the day, visitors will be able to roam Val-Kill grounds and visit the Stone Cottage’s permanent exhibits: “Eleanor Roosevelt: Emergence of a Political Leader”, which expands visitors’ knowledge of Eleanor Roosevelt and explains how the “picnic diplomacy” that she and Franklin practiced at Val-Kill was influential in the development of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal programs.

Larry Turk, the recently appointed Superintendent of the Roosevelt-Vanderbilt-Van Buren National Historic Sites said, “I look forward to being a part of this annual community tradition that brings many generations together as the Roosevelts did in their day, and is a fitting tribute to our National Park Service’s Centennial year.”

Manuela Roosevelt, Board Chair of The Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Partnership added, “We are proud to support projects at Val-Kill that enhance the visitor’s understanding of what a vital role this magical place played in Eleanor Roosevelt’s life and work.   The Annual Picnic is a wonderful way to reanimate Val-Kill the way she and Franklin most loved to enjoy it.”

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