In November 2013, Basilica Hudson launched a flea and farmers market to counter the corporate orgy of consumerism that is Black Friday in America. “As a commie Canadian I had been blind to America’s big-box mania. It’s just not romantic and it seemed like really bad business to me,” said Melissa Auf der Maur, owner of Basilica Hudson and former bassist for Hole and The Smashing Pumpkins.
About a thousand people attended the first Farm & Flea that brings together local artists, farmers, chefs and specialty shops. It has doubled in size every year since then. “The Farm & Flea has been hands down our most successful event,” said Auf der Maur who organizes festivals at the Basilica that feature the most exciting acts this side of Brooklyn.
“We went from having 1,000 people the first year to 3,000 the second and 12,000 last year,” she said.
Local artists, farmers and shop owners have been the beneficiaries, as the event allows them to peddle their wares to a vast holiday crowd, just before the winter lull.
“We’re happy to help local farmers and artists make their nest egg for the winter,” said Auf der Maur.
While anti-Black Friday events aren’t exactly uncommon these days, Basilica Hudson has found a way to offer something unique and compelling–transforming Black Friday shopping from a sadistic endurance contest and occasional riot into a relaxed, welcoming and dare-we-say “hip” way to discover the work of truly compelling local creatives, farmers, chefs, distilleries and specialty boutiques.
In other words, instead of bringing a flask of vodka to numb yourself to the pain inflicted by mall music and the taste of Arby’s you can instead sip away a tincture cocktail or mulled wine while being serenaded by local musicians and eating locally-sourced meals, cooked by prominent local chefs; all while supporting artists and shops you might not have otherwise known existed.
The Basilica Farm & Flea has created the kind of partnership between local farmers, chefs, artists and shop owners some localities only dream about.
The event features vintage clothing, jewelry makers, painters, comic books, antiquarian books, records and a wide selection of food and drink, spanning the Basilica’s 10,000-foot frame.
The event is also an art show. This year Elise McMahon of Like Minded Objects is staging the event in conjunction with other local artists–creating ambiance by harvesting plants (invasive species) from the local marsh to hang on the rafters, fabricating designs to display across the venue.
McMahon is also overseeing the selection of merchants this year. “People don’t want to gift disposable items anymore, said McMahon. “They want heirloom quality items that people will keep for the rest of their lives ,” said McMahon. “We think about, what do people really need or want in their life? What are the most special items you can own? So, the event is in a way an exploration of quality of life.”
In a way, the Farm & Flea has become a running conversation on global issues facing the creative economy. “I feel like there is an ingenuity in everyone involved,” said McMahon. “They are all aware of the international conversations around development, food, design, film, music, art and agriculture. They want access to resources, to the space to make things and that’s why they are here in the Hudson Valley. So all those characters are here and they enjoy hanging out together.”
The Basilica Farm & Flea runs from November 25-27. For more info, visit basilicahudson.com.