Footy Fest, a coed, soccer-themed festival taking place in the Catskills from Oct. 18-20, is a chance to get out of the city, soak up some fresh mountain air and play on real — recently mowed — grass. As it heads upstate for a third time, NYC Footy co-founder Tarek Pertew shares his vision for the event he launched with his partners, Joe Franquinha and Gerardo Cueva.
What was the inspiration for Footy Fest?
I was driving home from a friend’s house in Shandaken, [New York,] in fall 2017 and I saw these perfect fields and I thought I haven’t played on real grass since high school and I’m probably not the only one. Playing in city leagues, you can go for years and years without touching real grass. I gave myself a year to make it happen and we had the first Footy Fest last October.
How would you describe the experience?
We really want this to be a weekend about going all in to nature and detaching from the city. You’re playing with the silhouette of the Catskill Mountains in the background and a quiet highway on the other side connecting the small, local communities. It’s a really beautiful setting and in fall, there’s real soccer juju in the air.
Do you need to be a serious player to join in?
Not at all. We’re casual people and we’ve designed this for people who love soccer to come out and have fun and make new friends in the soccer community. It’s organized so that no one can play on preassembled teams. You can choose one person to play with, but otherwise we group individuals based on skill to create parity across teams. It creates a real sense of camaraderie and positivity.
Has the local community been involved?
Yes, we have been so lucky because they don’t even charge us for the fields. We’ve literally had local refs come out and referee games for a beer. We’ve also had locals and former NYC Footy players who have moved upstate come out and play, and on Saturday night we host our post-tournament party at the Woodstock Brewing just down the road.
Where do people stay?
When you buy a ticket, there’s an option to book accommodations, but people also do AirBnBs or hotels in Phoenicia and Woodstock. We’ve taken over two lodges at the Gardner Inn in Hunter about 25 minutes north of the fields. We’ve got around 40 rooms on a first-come, first-serve basis. During the festival, it’s our HQ when we’re not on the field, and anyone can drop by. On Friday night, we’ll have a kick-off party with food, drinks and field games.
What happens on game day?
On Saturday, we usually start around 11 a.m. getting people set up on teams and handing out jerseys. Then we pretty much play until sunset. Over the day, you’ll play four games and if your team progresses, a semifinal and a final. But even when you’re not on the field we have music, woven blankets to hang out on, cornhole, and tons of sponsors handing out free snacks and drinks.