Hobofest, Farm 2 Fork flavor Labor Day weekend

The coalition of Hobofest, a music festival that debuted five years ago, and the Farm 2 Fork food fest, which started a year later, has quickly made Labor Day weekend one of the most anticipated times of the year in Saranac Lake.

Sure, it has nowhere near the stature of Winter Carnival, and the economic impact isn’t huge – for now, at least – but in the public imagination, Hobofest and, to a less degree, Farm 2 Fork have become some of the village’s strongest second-tier events.

Like First Night on New Year’s Eve, Hobofest took a holiday weekend that had been only sleepily celebrated here and filled it with life and good times. It will take place Sunday, the day before Labor Day, for the sixth year in a row. We expect the lawn outside the Union Depot train station will once again be packed with happy people.

Even to those who know Hobofest intimately, it’s hard to determine why it, rather than some other events, made it as a big deal in people’s minds. Congratulations go to Peter Seward and Todd Smith, who began it by asking their friends’ bands to play for free outside what was then Mr. Smith’s art gallery. But they had an extra spark of inspiration – an Americana theme with flexible interpretations, for instance, plus Mr. Seward’s keen musical taste and T-shirt artistry – and a little chutzpah that helped them get musician-photographer-art professor John Cohen of the New Lost City Ramblers to perform at that premiere.

It kept growing, and the word spread. It draws attendees from around the region now. However coolness works – it’s been a mystery to us since high school – Hobofest managed to be cool.

This year’s Hobofest lineup seems a little shorter than last year’s, and it will be the first time off the lineup for a few people who have played it every year. On the other hand, mixing things up is good, too. That’s the only way to expose people to great music they never heard before.

Farm 2 Fork, which takes place today, is even more throughly local than Hobofest. It’s essentially the yearly climax of the Saranac Lake Farmers Market that has become very popular on warm-weather Saturdays in Riverside Park. People have built it into their food-shopping routines, and at Farm 2 Fork, there’s all kinds of good grub to sample for a few bucks. The combination of delicious, healthy, local food and seeing so many of your friends and neighbors in a happy atmosphere is part of what makes Saranac Lake such a great place to be. Three cheers for Gail Brill, who has continually been this event’s leader in spirit and labor.

Now Cycle Adirondacks, a regional bike tour of the Park starting next year for hundreds of riders paying $1,500 each for the catered experience, has been scheduled to start in Saranac Lake and return here to end Labor Day weekend, just in time to dig into some homegrown food and music.

We hope to see you there.