Goshen to Host Inaugural Sidewalk Chalk Festival

Festival coincides with debut of public pianos
April 18, 2016 Updated: April 20, 2016

GOSHEN—It’s going to be a more musical and colorful summer this year in Goshen.

Mayor Kyle Roddey, along with a host of art organizations in the area, are working on creating a Sidewalk Chalk Festival to coincide with the unveiling of the public street pianos called the “Keys of Goshen” project.

Roddey said he got the idea while working as director at the Goshen day camp where a colleague did a sidewalk chalk challenge with the kids. While he was thinking about taking the idea village-wide, a resident sent him a video of a similar festival in New Paltz.

“Great minds think alike,” Roddey said. “They have done something similar in Sugar Loaf, I believe in Newburgh as well. So it’s not a unique concept, but I’m hoping we can really make it a huge, community-wide event here.”

People of all ages and artistic abilities will be invited downtown on June 11 to leave their mark on a section of sidewalk, an area that will be assigned at registration. Roddey said the events is free, but people will be asked to bring their own chalk.

“We’ll also hopefully get some chalk donated from businesses,” he said.

Great minds think alike.
— Kyle Roddey, Goshen Village Mayor

The details are not finalized, he stressed, but the initial idea is to make it more than just drawing. Face painting, balloons, music, prizes, performances, and other children’s activities are some of the ideas so far.

While the streets it will be held on could change, the idea is to have it in the downtown. Roddey said they have to look at where the sidewalk could accommodate both pedestrians and chalk drawers, but they are looking at parts of West Main Street, North Church Street, or Main Street.

A sketch for one of the pianos by Julissie Saltzberg, one of the artists selected by the Goshen Art League to deco ate a piano. (Julissie Saltzberg)
A sketch for one of the pianos by Julissie Saltzberg, one of the artists selected by the Goshen Art League to decorate a piano. (Julissie Saltzberg)

The public pianos, which Roddey announced in March, will be unveiled that day and he said they are well on their way to being ready.

Four of the five donated pianos have been tuned and fixed, he said, and are waiting  to be painted by local artists that are in the process of being selected by the Goshen Art League.

There were no guidelines as to what the artists could do with the pianos, but Gloria Bonelli, who is coordinating the applications for the Goshen Art League, said they were asked to make them family friendly. 

“We were hoping to get one piano that the images were locally sourced, so either representational images of Goshen or some such thing, but other than that, there were really no other criteria,” she said in an April 18 phone interview.

Illuminate Goshen, one of the project’s organizers, and the Goshen Art League fundraised most of the money needed to fix and tune the pianos in March, but Roddey said they still need a little more, which will most likely be fundraised online.

It’s kind of a re-inventing of what used to be.
— Doug Bloomfield, Goshen Town Supervisor

Both the pianos and the sidewalk chalk festival are part of a larger agenda to beautify the village, create community, and get people on the street and shopping in local businesses.

Last September, Roddey started a second Saturday initiative called Buy Goshen that encouraged people to patronize village businesses on the second Saturday of every month. While it didn’t hurt, he said, it wasn’t all that effective.

“People want to shop local, and I think that a lot of people in Goshen do,” he said. “But what really helps is a more collaborative effort that combines a shop local push with a more functional downtown—with things like effective crosswalks, benches, bike racks—with programming.”

Sketches for the side of one of the Keys of Goshen pianos by artist Julissie Saltzberg. (Julissie Saltzberg)
Sketches for the side of one of the Keys of Goshen pianos by artist Julissie Saltzberg. (Julissie Saltzberg)

He has plans to increase the programming as well. Last year the Friends of Goshen sponsored  several concerts in the park, but this year Roddey wants to make them a weekly summer feature on the Village green. Right now he’s looking for sponsorship from local businesses for June through August, and by the end of the month, he hopes to know if there is enough support.

Town Supervisor Doug Bloomfield said this is how he remembered the Village when he was growing up  in the 1950’s “before television.”

“The Town had its own brass band … Every night you could go to a baseball or a softball game on Erie Street,” he said. “So it’s kind of a re-inventing of what used to be.”

Also coming soon is the Market Street Pedestrian Park, and Route 207/Greenwich Avenue will be repaved.

“Goshen is coming more and more alive, there is an energy that is palpable in the air with all the new initiatives, and we’re seeing new businesses come to Goshen at the same time,” Roddey said. “I think we’re going to see a huge jump in shopping local and just a greater sense of community.”

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