At Van Cortlandt Manor’s River Day, Performance tells tale of Hudson’s voyage … Hands-on activities include kayak rides, fishing, and more

The Arm-of-the-Sea theater group will be debuting a new Quadricentennial-themed performance on Sunday, August 9, at Van Cortlandt Manor’s River Day, an event devoted to the history and ecology of the area’s watershed, and featuring kayak rides and hands-on activities for all ages.

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Netmaking activity
Photo by Bryan Haeffele



The festival-style River Day, which takes place from 12-6 pm and is sponsored by Fujifilm U.S.A., Inc., features hands-on activities that teach children and adults about the area’s fragile watershed.

"Eco-logic" theater group Arm-of-the-Sea will be performing a brand new play called "Mutual Strangers: Henry Hudson and the River That Discovered Him," at 2 pm. This new show commemorates the Quadricentennial of Hudson’s voyage.

The group uses poetry, lusciously painted puppet figures, and beautiful mask characters in this production. With stunning visuals and live music, Arm-of-the-Sea harnesses the transformational energy of mask and puppet theater to re-imagine from multiple points of view Hudson’s voyage on the river that now bears his name. Based on the log of first mate Robert Juet and the oral traditions of Lenape and Mahican peoples, Mutual Strangers presents a collage of overlapping narratives to mark the 400th anniversary of this world-changing voyage.

Hudson River Recreation will be performing kayak demonstrations during this celebration of the environment, allowing experienced kayakers to test drive new models while beginning kayakers can get their feet wet learning the sport.

"Both the Hudson River and the Croton River have been a source of commerce, travel, food, and recreation for centuries. Through games, workshops, and demonstrations, we’ll delve into the past and present uses, thoughts, and concerns about these rivers," said Althea Corey, site director of Van Cortlandt Manor.

Costumed interpreters will demonstrate how 18th century Hudson Valley residents performed such marine-related tasks as fishing and boat building and will demonstrate 18th-century tasks such as cooking, milling, coopering, and blacksmithing.

Visitors will be encouraged to lend a hand.

Other activities include fishing using 18th-century-style poles, knot-tying demonstrations and workshops, and games that teach children about water and river ecology.

Rocking the Boat, a non-profit youth development organization in the Bronx, will be demonstrating the wooden boats they create by hand.

A number of regional educational organizations and environmental advocacy groups are bringing hands-on educational activities to River Day, including the Hudson River Estuary Program, Beczak Environmental Education Center, Saw Mill River Audubon, Toll House Museum, and the New York Department of Environmental Protection.

Local expert archeologists MALFA will bring exhibits of artifacts from digs in the lower Hudson region. The Traditional Small Craft Association will display a wooden Adirondack guide boat.

Music will be provided by Jim Keyes of Irvington and Iris Cohen. Picnic food from Geordanes in Irvington will be available.

The Croton River, which empties into the Hudson River about a half-mile past the Manor House on the Van Cortlandt estate, was used in the 18th century as a dynamic water source, powering gristmills and sawmills.

Admission to River Day at Van Cortlandt Manor is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, $6 for children 5-17 and free for children under 5 as well as for Historic Hudson Valley members. Tickets are available online at www.hudsonvalley.org. Van Cortlandt Manor, an Historic Hudson Valley site, is at 525 South Riverside Avenue (off Route 9) in Croton-on-Hudson. For information: 914-271-8981.

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About the Author: Rob Schweitzer