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Fall Festival Centers Around Historic Church In Sleepy Hollow

The Headless Horseman visits the Old Dutch Church Fest, which runs every weekend through October.
The Headless Horseman visits the Old Dutch Church Fest, which runs every weekend through October. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Reformed Church of the Tarrytowns
  • What : 6th Annual Old Dutch Church Fest
  • When : Weekends, including Columbus Day and Halloween, 12-4:30 p.m.
  • Where : Old Dutch Church, 430 Broadway, Sleepy Hollow

TARRYTOWN, N.Y. -- If you’ve ever wanted to attend a service at one of the oldest churches in America, October is the time to visit the Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow.

The Reformed Church of the Tarrytowns hosts its sixth annual Old Dutch Church Fest every October weekend, from noon to 4:30 including Columbus Day and Halloween. The Reformed Church hosts Sunday services at the Old Dutch Church, which was built in 1685. It is the oldest church in New York with continuous ministry.

The church fest has grown in popularity since it started in 2011. It includes music, food, drink, The Headless Horseman, an ale house, souvenirs, a tour of the Old Dutch Church and Burying Ground and a scavenger hunt.

“It really has take on a life of its own,’’ said Rev. Jeffrey Gargano, Pastor of the Reformed Church of the Tarrytowns. “It began as a way of just welcoming the thousands who came here to visit. Now we’re selling bratwurst, Dutch cookies and pumpkin ale. It’s a nice way to say we’re not just Ichabod Crane and The Headless Horseman. We’re a community that is happy to see you, and if anyone is interested in seeing what the church is about, there’s a brief service on Sundays.”

Rev. Gargano has been the Pastor at Reformed Church of the Tarrytowns for seven years. He said its mission has not changed drastically in its more than three centuries of existence. “We’re one of the most historic churches in the world, but what we’ve been doing for 330 years is be relevant to the community and be faithful to God.”

The Old Dutch church was featured prominently in Washington Irving’s 1820 fictional book, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” It was renovated after a fire in 1837, and was designated a national historical landmark in 1961. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1966.

The Reformed Church still holds services at Old Dutch from June through September, and on Easter and Christmas Eve. It has established a campaign to increase accessibility for seniors and people with disabilities. Reformed Church services are held from October through May at the Clock Church, 42 North Broadway in Tarrytown.

“I think what makes our church unique is we are at the epicenter for both Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown,’’ Rev. Gargano said. “It’s a sacred house of worship. We’re diverse, open to people of all backgrounds. We have a lot of families. It’s a warm and welcoming place, but faithful to our religious traditions.”

Rev. Gargano said the church has substantial community outreach. Ten teenagers, for instance, recently returned from a trip to Haiti where they helped build a home. “They told the congregation they wanted to go back,’’ Rev. Gargano said. “The congregation is raising money now and they’re hoping to go back in February during their winter break. They did this completely on their own. It has everyone inspired.”

The work in improving access to Old Dutch Church has energized the congregation as well. The improvements include a more welcoming stairway to replace uneven stones, a new wheelchair ramp and an expanded landing at the threshold. “Just as we have been gifted this marvelous house of worship by previous generations, we now have the opportunity to enhance it for future generations,’’ Rev. Gargano said.

For more information on Reformed Church of the Tarrytowns and the Old Church Fest, click here to visit its website. Click here to visit the website for Friends of the Old Dutch Church and Burying Ground.

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