Andy amidst Catskill Mountain foliage. Photo: Roseann Marulli
Big tent. Friendly critters. Funny emcee. Yummy food. Cool music. No, it wasn’t the circus, it was the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary‘s annual ThanksLiving.
Over 250 people came for this sold out event Sunday to visit with rescued farm animals and enjoy a fabulous sit-down all-vegan meal. ThanksLiving rather than Thanksgiving is a celebration of turkeys and other farmed animals during a season traditionally centered on meals of dead animals. This is the third year I have volunteered for this event, and here’s my “take” on it:
The weather report promised a 100 percent chance of precipitation, but we were lucky. The cold schvitz of the morning gave way to light banks of clouds by the afternoon. The sanctuary is nestled between two Catskill mountains, which were resplendent in fall foliage. A giant heated tent was set up in the goat pasture, with elegant light fixtures, dozens of white-clothed tables, and a stage.
First, of course, let’s visit with the animals. The welcoming committee of turkey boys greeted visitors, looking regal with their fans of white tail feathers. Folks marveled at their fuchsia (now pink, now blue!) snoods and wattles, while the curious boys ogled back, moving up close to check us out.
Turkey welcoming committee. Photo: Roseann Marulli
I touched base with familiar friends—Sophie the black and white pig, who grunted in greeting and sleepily pulled herself up from a nap when she heard my voice; Dylan, a former veal calf now van-size steer, offered me his snout for rubs; and Anne the cute-as-a-button Boer goat and young escape artist. Albie, the three-legged goat bopped around on his new fake leg as Louise the beautiful ewe hung out with her sheep posse, eyeing visitors from a distance.
Sophie takes a mud bath (2008). Photo: Cat Clyne
There was the spanking-new duck pond to admire and its new residents to meet: Teddi and Quincy. Teddi provided a lively commentary as he proudly showed me his new digs (occasionally nipping my jeans to accentuate a point), while Quincy gracefully bathed in the man-made pond, complete with a waterfall cascading down rocks.
There was a coop full of new black and white chickens to meet. They were recently rescued from a live-kill market in New York City. 110 chickens in all were brought to the farm, many sickly and injured. This is a reality most New Yorkers are unaware of: there are roughly 100 markets around the city where people can buy meat from animals freshly killed on the premises. Some animals escape and many are confiscated by authorities due to neglect and cruelty; these city critters end up at our local sanctuaries (one more reason why New Yorkers should support their work!).
A high point for me was meeting Ciyalana the 11 year-old African Spurred tortoise (they can live up to 80 years!). He’s got little buck teeth and a sweet ‘smile’. A few years ago, some kids tried to bash in his shell with a brick, so he has an alarming gash in his armor. But that doesn’t stop him from liking humans. We spent a little time checking each other out. Here’s a crazy-cute video of him eating dinosaur kale!!!
Ciyalana – tank with legs. Photo: Cat Clyne
I wouldn’t be a vegan if I didn’t talk about the food, right? I worked in the kitchen throughout the event, so I had an up-close perspective.
While guests milled about the merchandise, raffle and silent auction tables, platters of hors d’oeuvres were offered: spicy meatballs with carrot-ginger sauce, veggie dumplings, bbq seitan skewers, and stuffed mushrooms.
The dinner plates were filled to the rims with a festival of seasonal fare: Blue corn crusted seitan with chimichurri sauce (a hearty specialty of local restaurant New World Home Cooking), savory stuffing (whole cranberries made a nice touch), warm Tuscan farro salad with butternut squash, and roasted seasonal veggies. Sweet potato and walnut biscuits from all-vegan Karma Road Deli topped off the feast.
Dinner plate. Photo: Roseann Marulli
What’s a Thanksgiving meal without a rockin’ dessert?! Provided by the famous Bethlehem, PA-based bakery Vegan Treats, there was a selection of delectable cakes: spicy pumpkin cheesecake, death by chocolate, and peanut butter bomb. Bakery founder Danielle Konya was on hand to help cut and serve the cakes.
Cakes in the kitchen. Photo: Roseann Marulli
Bizarro cartoonist, WFAS Board member, and all around funny guy Dan Piraro suavely emceed the evening, keeping things moving smoothly with jokes and witty commentary.
Nathan Runkle, founder of Ohio-based grassroots group Mercy For Animals, gave an empowering talk with enough facts about factory-farmed animals to bring the reality home, but staying positive by reminding people that they can help animals by choosing vegan food. John Phillips talked about his impressive work with the New York League of Humane Voters and local shelter director Brian Shapiro gave a shout-out to the Ulster County SPCA.
Then Jenny Brown took the stage – the illustrious co-founder and director of the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary. She told stories about the animals at the sanctuary and featured some wonderful stills by photographer (and longtime volunteer) Bob Esposito. She gave an impassioned plea on behalf of farmed animals by outlining what many of them go through, particularly the suffering of dairy cows and egg laying hens. She brought the mood back up again with an outrageously cute video of Fern, a little blond goat and recent arrival at the farm. Too cute.
The evening was nicely topped off with live music by the NYC-based band Ida. They started with some mellow mood music as people gathered by the stage, then picked up the pace with folk-rock songs. They are a strong supporter of animal issues and a regular guest at WFAS events.
By the end of the event, the sun was peeking through the clouds as people picked up their bulging gift bags.
Big top in the goat pasture. Photo: Roseann Marulli
Some people commented that the food wasn’t as fabulous as years past (ok: it’s no easy feat topping the meals of the past two years featuring dishes handmade on site by celebrity vegan chef Isa Chandra Moskowitz—I am remembering her mouthwatering chickpea cutlets with mushroom gravy…). But in my view, this year’s ThanksLiving was a fine mixture of good food, uplifting (and brief) talks, fabulous raffle and silent auction prizes, and weather that was warm enough to allow for quality outdoor time with the animal residents of the sanctuary.
Hats off to the staff, board, and army of volunteers who made this a super-smooth event. To support the work of the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary and find out how to visit, see their website: woodstockfas.org.
Thanks to fellow SuperVegan Roseann Marulli for sharing her lovely photos. See more of them on her FaceBook page.