— HiSTORY —
Honey Festival first landed on the Rockaway Boardwalk back in 2011. The brainchild of Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm managing partner and Chief Beekeeper, Chase Emmons, it began with modest intentions: an opportunity for the apiarists of New York City to celebrate the end-of-summer harvest, and to sell their honey and hive-products. That first year, the festival was made possible by the hard work of some of the city's best "beeks," an affectionate term used to describe those who geek out on beekeeping. There was the host, Rockaway business owner and resident David Selig, who provided the location and rallied his local community to show up to the beachside shindig. Borough Bees' Tim O'Neil manned the extractor, spinning honey out of frames directly into shoppers' jars--and never abandoning ship, even when forager bees caught wind of what was going on and decided to partake! And a crack team of the city's all-star worker bees lent their support, including the Grange's 2011 Farm Manager, Michael Meier; Backwards Beekeepers of New York members Molly Byrnes, Kelly York, and Ross Brown; and of course Meg Paska, the outspoken natural beekeeping advocate and author of The Rooftop Beekeeper.
That first festival was a smash success and many of the vendors expressed amazement at how quickly they sold out. Clearly, New York City denizens wanted to get their hands on that sweet, sweet nectar! So repeating the event in 2012 was a no-brainer, and once again, it was solid gold.
Then, in November of 2012, disaster struck: Hurricane Sandy touched down on the Northeast, devastating the Rockaways and decimating the homes of residents, as well as the boardwalk on which Honey Fest had taken place for the past two years.
Enter Honey Week's founding producers and seasoned events professionals, Steve Rogenstein and Jessica Austerlitz. That summer, Steve was a participant in Brooklyn Grange's beekeeping training program and Jess was a farmer-in-training at Brooklyn Grange's Navy Yard location. When they both expressed interest in working on the event, it was as though the stars aligned. The majority of the team from the first two years had moved out of town or grown too busy with their own projects to dedicate the time and attention to the event that it required. But in Jess and Steve's more than capable hands, the event flourished.
Determined to bring the event back to its birthplace in proud, strong Rockaway Beach, Jess and Steve sprang into action finding an alternate home until the boardwalk could be rebuilt. With the generous help of the folks at Ripper's and the 97th St Concessions, Honey Fest triumphantly returned to the beachfront where it had gotten its start. After a third successful year in 2013, and more support from both local beekeepers and the community alike, it was clear: Honey Fest couldn't be deterred by a force of nature.
What's more, Jess and Steve realized the potential of the event to affect even greater good. Building on the momentum it had picked up over the first three years, they worked with Chase and Brooklyn Grange co-founder Anastasia Cole Plakias to develop an entire week of programming dedicated to the honey bee. From free educational events for all ages to epic culinary feasts, 2014's inaugural Honey Week highlighted the importance of these industrious pollinators, and the incredible products they produce.
Steve has since moved to Spain, where he is hard at work trying to legalize beekeeping in Barcelona. This year, we're proud to welcome farmer and Rockaway native Michelle Cashen on board, and offer even more diverse and exciting happenings than ever before! 2015's lineup will include something for everyone. After all, honey bees pollinate most of the foods we eat, so when it comes to the ongoing health of Apis mellifera, we're all affected: every time we pick up a fork or a glass, we are having an impact on these amazing creatures.
We can't wait for this September's week of festivities! In the meantime, follow us on social media and catch the buzz.