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Roosevelt-Era Picnic Diplomacy Revived: Picnic & Square Dance at Val-Kill on September 17th

The  Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Partnership invites you to attend the 4th annual Picnic and Square Dance on Saturday, September 17  from 1pm to 5pm at Val-Kill, located on Route 9 G, in Hyde Park. Tickets to are $20, or $5 for kids (4 & under free), 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 Val-Kill grounds for you 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 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 plus cook your own hot dog at the 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 ranger
  • Face painting
  • Dance to period music; square dancing called by the Lightning Rods
  • Tour Stone Cottage Exhibits: Eleanor Roosevelt: Emergence of a Political Leader

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 food using ingredients from Hudson Valley 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). 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.

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 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 18th-century forms.  A social experiment, Val-Kill Industries never became the subsistence program Eleanor and her friends imagined, but it did pave the way for larger New Deal initiatives during FDR's presidential administration.

Visitors can 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 and explains how the “picnic diplomacy”  she and Franklin practiced was influential in the development of 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.”   

It is sponsored by the Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Partnership, an official charitable partner to the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site. Manuela Roosevelt, Board Chair of The Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Partnership added, “We’re 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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The Eleanor Roosevelt-Val-Kill Partnership is a 501(c)3 nonprofit in public private partnership with the National Park Service's Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site. Our mission is to promote and sustain Eleanor Roosevelt's ideals as one of the world's most courageous leaders for social justice so that future generations can be inspired through her example. We accomplish this mission by revitalizing her life and work through our support of interpretive projects at her beloved Val-Kill home with the National Park Service. We also build engagement, awareness and action for her leadership on social justice issues through collaborative partnerships and programming dedicated to her ideals in our time. 

Founded by Hillary Clinton in 1998 as Honoring Eleanor Roosevelt, an inaugural project of Save America's Treasures and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the organization assisted with crucial early support for Val-Kill restoration projects, acquisitions and the site’s first interpretative exhibits. In 2013, The Eleanor Roosevelt-Val-Kill Partnership became its own nonprofit. As the primary sponsor of interpretive programming for Val-Kill, the Partnership has been an integral partner to the National Park Service in strengthening the visitor’s experience at Val-Kill. To date the Partnership has raised over $2 million dollars in direct benefits to the site, including funding Val-Kill’s first Visitor’s Center and orientation exhibits, co-producing an award-winning documentary "Close to Home" seen with every tour, and underwriting the National Park Service’s new Stone Cottage exhibitEleanor Roosevelt and Val-Kill: Emergence of a Political Leader. The Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Partnership is also the only charitable partner devoted entirely to the maintenance, preservation and restoration of Val-Kill in partnership with the National Park Service.

When: Saturday, September 17, 2016, 1-5pm

Where: Val-Kill, Route 9G, Hyde Park

What: The grounds of Val-Kill will be open to enjoy it the way the Roosevelts loved. A highlight is the re-opening of the Roosevelt’s outdoor fireplace, where you can cook your own hot dog

Cost: Tickets are $20, $5/kids, and must be purchased in advance at www.valkill.org. Kids 4 & under are free. Includes food, drinks & family friendly activities. Tickets will not be available at the door. For info contact Uri Perrin at uri@valkill.org

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