Ron Johnson on the keyboard and his brother Ren on the fiddle led singers on Christmas Carols at this afternoon Candlelight Evening, The Farmers’ Museum annual holiday celebration. It began at 3, and despite the rain that began at 4 the tailed off at 6, a cheerful crowd enjoyed a range of bands and choruses – including Toddsville Community Bible Chapel choir, inset right, that included Gail and Tim Buel and grandkids Jude, 4, and Aria, 2. Fans, including many families who come annually from the Capital Region and Utica area, tromped through the mud almost cheerfully – no kidding! – crowding around kettles of heated apple cider – and sheltering from the rain and into the exhibition buildings. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)
HOLIDAY MARKET – 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Find holiday gifts from 50+ vendors selling textiles, herbal products, jewelry, wreaths, more in heated greenhouse. Includes food/wine tasting, hot apple cider donuts, pies more. Sunnycrest Orchards, 7869 St. Rt. 10, Sharon Springs. 518-284-2256 or visit www.sunnycrestorchards.com
DAY OF THE DEAD – 10 a.m. – Noon. Experience Dia De Muertos and the Latinx community by telling stories in Spanish & English, participating in family activities, enjoy traditional food, more. Cooperstown Village Library. 607-547-8344 or visit www.facebook.com/VillageLibraryOfCooperstown/
FILM – 6:30 p.m. Visit exhibit ‘Duane Michals: The Portraitist’ then enjoy film, starting at 7, connected to exhibit with introduction. This week “Bram Stokers Dracula” with Francis Ford Coppola & Tom Waits (Rated R). Cost, $7/non-member. Fenimore Museum, Cooperstown. 607-547-1400 or visit www.fenimoreartmuseum.org
HAUNTED HOUSE – 6 – 10 p.m. Get your heart racing as you explore house filled with terrifying creatures, specters, more. Recommended ages 12+. Admission, $2 or donation to Toiletries Closet. Oneonta Teen Center, 4 Academy St., Oneonta. 607-441-3999 or visit www.facebook.com/oneonta.teencenter
PARANORMAL – 7 – 9 p.m. & 10 – Midnight. Join seasoned investigator for fun, education, exploration of paranormal possibilities of the opera house. Cost, $20/person. Earlville Opera House, 18 E. Main St., Earlville. 315-691-3550 or visit www.earlvilleoperahouse.com/halloween-events
AUDUBON SOCIETY – 7:30 p.m. Presentation “Collected stories of 2019” featuring photographs of birds, foxes, butterfly’s, other natural subjects by local photographer Rick Bunting. Will feature stories about favorite events from this year. Quality Inn, 5206 St. Hwy. 23, Oneonta. 607-397-3815 or visit www.facebook.com/DelawareOtsegoAudubonSociety/
COOPERSTOWN – It’s 150 years later, and New York State’s greatest hoax is still bringing in the gawkers.
“The Cardiff Giant is still a favorite,” said Todd Kenyon, The Farmers’ Museum communications director. “It’s part of American folklore.”
On Wednesday, Oct. 16, got into The Farmers’ for just 50 cents, the original price paid to see it under a tent in George Hull’s backyard. That evening, visitors were able to see a “Medicine Show” hawking the Giant, performed by the Templeton Players, and enjoy a piece of giant birthday cake.
On Oct. 16, 1869, workers on Stub Newell’s farm in Cardiff, outside Syracuse, were digging a well when they discovered the 10½-foot long body of a petrified man. “That must have been incredible,” said Kenyon, “to be digging a well and find the body of a man.”
Newell’s farm was an old lake bed, and fossils had been discovered there before. “Paleontology was a new science,” said Tom Heitz, Town of Otsego historian, who used to interpret the Giant for museum visitors. “People were finding saber-tooth tiger fossils and other strange creatures, so it made sense to people at the time.”
Neighbors gathered around the pit, and within two days, Hull, Newell’s cousin, had erected a tent and were charging people 50 cents – the equivalent of $9.25 today – to come see the giant.
At 10½ feet and 2,990 pounds, the Cardiff Giant was proclaimed to be “Taller than Goliath Whom David Slew.” A doctor in Norwich pronounced him “a real man, turned to stone,” and people came from across the state and, in some cases, across the country to see the giant.
“He was very popular with the religious people,” said Heitz. “There’s a line in Genesis about a time when giants roamed the earth, and people took this as confirmation of that.”
But with so many people wanting to take a peek, Hull and Newell – who had already made a considerable sum off their 50 cent admissions – decided to sell the giant to investors in Syracuse, who put it on display for people who came by train from all across the stage.
“People didn’t have TV or the Internet,” said Heitz. “But they wanted to see the spectacle of it.”
PT Barnum tried to buy the giant for $15,000, but when Hull wouldn’t sell, he created his own and toured it around the country and in Europe.
But by December, Hull admitted that his giant was a fake, a gypsum man carved a year earlier in Chicago and buried in Newell’s back yard. “He was a bit of a scoundrel,” said Heitz. “He had been in jail in Binghamton for running a con game when he was younger.”
According to Heitz, he had gotten in an argument with Reverend Turk, a Methodist minister who took the stories of the Bible – including Genesis 6:4, which references the giants – literally. Hull wanted to prove him wrong, so he ordered the creation of the giant.
In 1868, Hull ordered a slab of gypsum from Fort Dodge, Iowa, and send it to be carved in Chicago, then shipped back by train and carriage to Newell’s farm, where it was buried and “discovered” a year later.
Even after Hull admitted it was a hoax, people still flocked to see the giant, and it traveled to several cities, including Albany and Manhattan. Some places objected to his nudity and placed a fig leaf over his exposed genitals; others asked that men and women go in separately.
“They even did shows for the blind,” said Heitz. “They would let people feel his toe or his face.”
The excitement of seeing the cause of the famous object, even after it was a proven fake, dwindled at the beginning of the 20th Century, and in 1948 it was brought to The Farmers’ Museum, where he has been on continuous display ever since.
TRACTOR FEST – 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. See Over 60 tractors and machines they powered on NYS farms. Features classic, small engine, more. Famers’ Museum, Cooperstown. 607-547-1450 or visit www.farmersmuseum.org/Tractor-Fest
SOCKHOP – 5 p.m. Fun evening features, silent auction featuring great deals from local businesses, dancing, food from the 50s. Benefit for 1st UMC Missions & Art Ministry, Oneonta Community Health Center. Cost, $5. First United Methodist Church, 66 Chestnut St., Oneonta. 607-432-4102 or visit www.firstumc-oneonta.org
SCI-FI & HORROR – 11 a.m. Day 2 of the strange and horrific festival. Features authors, vendors, speakers, activities, more. Cost, $6/person for day pass. Foothills Performing Arts Center, Oneonta. Visit www.facebook.com/SciFiHorroFest/
COMMUNITY POTLUCK – 4 – 7 p.m. Celebrate our community at 8th annual community harvest supper. Bring a dish to pass, cutlery, plates, beverages, pull up a chair and enjoy the company of your neighbors. Includes games on the Library Lawn for the kids. Main St. between River & Fair Sts., Cooperstown. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.facebook.com/GrowingCommunityCooperstown/
BIKE RACE – 10 a.m. 8th Annual Drops to Hops Bike Race. Ride 43 miles or 23 miles followed by party at the finish line for races, families. Cost, $55/person after 9/26. Brewery Ommegang, 656 Co. Hwy. 33, Cooperstown. 607-547-2800 or visit www.clarksportscenter.com/events/2019-drops-to-hops/
Juggling burning sticks, Dickens the Clown was performing again today at The Farmers’ Museum Harvest Festival, as he has for years. Sitting on the bench behind him are the Micelli family of Glenville, near Schenectady, who have come to the annual event for 16 years, since 16-year-old Katelyn Micelli, left, was a newborn. Inset, the sounds of Milford’s B.J. Baker’s violin serenaded festival goers at the entrance of the museum’s Historic Village. Today’s weather was perfect, mild temperatures under a clear blue sky. More of the same is expect tomorrow, Sunday, Sept. 22, when the festivities – music, food, displays and free rides for festivalgoers on the Empire Carousel – continue from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)