Today’s news:

Onderdonk House cancels Harvest Festival after budget cuts

The city’s shrinking budget and a change in City Council representation has claimed an annual festival at Ridgewood’s historic Onderdonk House.

The Harvest Festival, which typically attracted 500 children and their parents for an afternoon of fun and free pumpkins, has been canceled after the Greater Ridgewood Historical Society announced the group’s funding had been reduced by 46 percent for the 2009 fiscal year.

“I understand that there are many needs in our community and that there are always difficult choices, but I was shocked to see such a huge drop in one year,” society President Linda Monte said.

The society received $7,200 from the city Department of Cultural Affairs’ Cultural Development Fund and $1,500 in member items from Councilman Anthony Como (R−Middle Village) in the current fiscal year, city records show.

The $7,200 represents a 4 percent reduction from the $7,500 the society received from Cultural Affairs in the 2008 fiscal year, part of an overall budget reduction in city agencies, a spokeswoman said.

But the major reduction came in member items. Deposed Councilman Dennis Gallagher, a Republican who represented Ridgewood, allocated $8,000 to the group in the 2008 fiscal year, far more than Como provided this year.

The funding cuts will also result in cutbacks to the historical society’s school programs, other special events and operating hours at the Onderdonk House.

School programs which provide students with “hands−on living history” will be cut back to once a week instead of three times a week, and guided tours of the house will now take place one weekend a month, the society said.

The society is also struggling to maintain its membership, which has plummeted from 800 in the early 1980s to 200 this year.

The Onderdonk House is the oldest Dutch Colonial stone house in the city. Its foundation dates back to 1660.

The Greater Ridgewood Historical Society was established in 1975 by a group of local residents to prevent the demolition of the historic home.

From 1975 until 1981, the society raised funds to reconstruct the house, which had been seriously damaged by fire. In 1976 the society published a history of the greater Ridgewood area, entitled “Our Community, Its History and People.”

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e−mail at jwalsh@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 154.

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