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10 Things To Love About Norfolk

By Rachel Louchen

The “icebox of Connecticut” has a lot more going for it than severe winters and not terribly hot summers. Norfolk happens to have many cultural destinations and historic sites, surrounded by beautiful state forests that offer hiking, camping and swimming, among other activities. While its proximity to the Berkshires is a perk, the sense of community is really what makes Norfolk so appealing. Townspeople throw their support behind institutions like the library and the curling club and new traditions like Saturdays at the farmers’ market and evenings at Infinity Hall.

Photo: Bill Keane

1. Infinity Music Hall and Bistro. Almost synonymous with Norfolk is Infinity Music Hall and Bistro. The venue has brought contemporary music to the quiet town, with acclaimed national and worldwide bands that span every genre. Jazz one evening, bluegrass the next, the unique concert experience is heightened by its historic location, originally built in 1883 and an opera house, saloon and barbershop in previous incarnations. Original stage and period details like beautiful stained glass windows and wood set Infinity apart from banal stadium-like venues. And the 500-seat hall provides an up-close and intimate setting for musical acts. Events like local music night and open mic entertain the locals all year long, and its bistro has been recognized for its culinary offerings.

2. Haystack Mountain. There are ample hiking opportunities in Norfolk, but Haystack Mountain is unique because it doesn’t take much time to get the reward at the very top. A roadway provides car access halfway up the mountain; then a brisk half-mile hike leads to the descent, where the 34-foot stone tower greets you. Listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, the tower’s winding stairs are pretty steep, but the payoff is 360-degree views of four states including the Berkshires, Bear Mountain in Connecticut, Mount Frissel in New York and even the Green Mountains of Vermont. After your hike up the tower, the walk down the mountain is smooth sailing, with an abundance of pine trees and Connecticut’s state plant, mountain laurel, to enjoy.

3. Norfolk Curling Club. How many towns have their own curling club? A sport similar to shuffleboard, two teams, with four players each, take turns sliding heavy rocks across an ice rink with a marketed target. Founded in 1956, the club suffered a devastating fire in 2011 but returned last year with leagues for men, women and seniors, and Saturday clinics for new curlers. The non-profit is run entirely by volunteers and received an outpouring of support following the fire from the community, which helped rebuild the club and continue its legacy.

Photo: Bob Andelman

4.Norfolk Chamber Music Festival. The oldest summer music festival in North America, Norfolk dates back to 1899 when Ellen Battell and her husband Carl Stoeckel, son of the Yale School of Music’s first professor, founded the Litchfield County Choral Union. They began hosting chamber music concerts as well as choral concerts in their 35-room mansion, Whitehouse, and in 1906 had local architect E.K. Rossiter build a music shed that still stands. When she died in 1939, Mrs. Battell Stoeckel let her estate to Yale and in 1941 the Yale Summer School of Music opened its doors. This is a festival that the community has always supported and loved; residents of Norfolk and the surrounding area host the Fellows throughout their summer experience. Before a concert, it’s hard not to be enchanted by the rolling hills and babbling brooks which create a magical setting where you can stroll, picnic and musician watch.

5. Norfolk Farmers’ Market. What makes this farmers’ market so special when so many towns in the Rural Intelligence region offer one? The turnout and support of locals throughout the seasons. “I look forward to each and every market that I manage because I get to witness the friendliest atmosphere you could ever imagine,” says Market Manager Theresa Cannavo. “There is something about being around extremely smart, talented and hardworking people. The artists, musicians and farmers have so much to offer; you can learn a lot just by observing them.”

6. Great Mountain Forest. Located on 6,000 protected acres, Great Mountain is a non-profit working conservation forest dedicated to the preservation of forests, and offers classes to educate others about our natural landscape. A far cry from a lecture series with slides, these classes are hands-on, effective and fun, putting visitors outside among the trees to learn the value of their preservation. Ecology hikes, do-it-yourself maple syrup gathering, field walks with biologists and photography classes are just a few examples of the fun ways dedicated staff teach about nature. At Great Mountain Forest you can also enjoy recreational activities like hiking, mountain biking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

7. Norfolk Library. Established in 1889, the library welcomes you with an owl-shaped gargoyle, and once inside, you’ll note its fine architectural details popping out among the rows of handsome books. The heart of the town’s historic district, the library has an original fluted Spanish tile roof and fish scale tiled shingles, stone floors, stained glass windows and a fireplace inside. Like all small town libraries, Norfolk’s library has served as a community hub for the past 125 years, and has weekly activities for children, book groups, movie screenings and a bridge club.

8. Norfolk Artists & Friends. Norfolk has had a long tradition of attracting and inspiring fine artists (as well as having generous art patrons). In 2007, when Ruthann Olsson conceived of the idea to have a salon gathering of artists, she put together a list of all the working visual artists and craftsmen living in Norfolk. There were 56 names on the list, which seemed, she said, a large number in a town of around 1,700 people. That was the beginning of Norfolk Artists & Friends, which produced its first group show in 2009. From the beginning, it was sponsored by the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival and held on its grounds in the Battell Stoeckel Art Gallery. This summer will be its seventh annual show, and well worth a visit.

9. Dennis Hill. The 240-acre Dennis Hill State Park has a gently sloping paved drive to the very top, so hiking boots aren’t necessary. It was gifted to Connecticut in 1935 by Dr. Frederick Shepard Dennis, and his summer residence still stands as an open pavilion, with stone ledges and several picnic tables on which to sit. The entire top of the hill is truly the perfect picnic spot, with many flat surfaces to enjoy the far-spanning views. Open the third week of April to November 1; fall foliage season is a mandatory time for a trip to Dennis Hill.


10. The huge slide. Botelle Elementary School’s motto is “a small school with a big heart.” But for those in the know, it’s actually the small school with a big slide. Giant slide, in fact. In warm weather, it’s not unusual to drive by and see a line for the large green slide that appeals equally to adults and children. Ascend the wooden steps, enjoy the long ride down, repeat.

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Posted by Rachel Louchen on 03/23/15 at 05:32 PM • Permalink

BerkshireFlirt Helps Turn Singles Into Doubles

George Manley, Stephanie Mendoza and Julia Dixon at the Taggart House. Photo courtesy of Marc J. Wrzesinski.

By Amy Krzanik

If you’ve ever been single and attempted to mingle in Berkshire County, you’ve probably come up against at least two obstacles—distance and quantity. Due to the seeming lack of available partners, singles turn to online dating sites and apps, where planning a first date often means traveling to Albany, Springfield or even farther to meet a potential match in person. That’s a long way to drive only to be disappointed.

Berkshire Creative’s Managing Director, Julia Dixon, understands how daunting dating in the Berkshires can be. The 31-year-old Dixon is experiencing the issue from two angles: as a single person and as part of the Berkshire Initiative for Growth (BIG) which aims to identify some of the factors involved in recruiting and keeping young people in the area. Along with employment and housing, being able to find a spouse and start a family is a concern for those deciding where to start their lives.

This past January, while discussing dating woes over Bloody Marys at Pittsfield’s Thistle & Mirth, Dixon, Stephanie Mendoza and a few of their friends hatched BerkshireFlirt. The social networking group’s aim is to get people in a room together in real time, and help facilitate conversation with ice breakers, cocktails and snacks – more like a traditional house party and less like a high-pressure speed-dating event. Because while online dating can help pinpoint with whom you’re more likely to get along, it leaves out a huge part of the equation — in-person chemistry. “I don’t like learning about people through data points,” Dixon says, alluding to things like height, weight, and occupation that some people use to dismiss suitors out of hand when online.

Photo courtesy of Marc J. Wrzesinski.

The first Flirt event, on February 14 at the bar where it all began — Thistle & Mirth — was a hit, with all 40 free tickets claimed before the doors even opened. Dixon says the turnout was diverse, with a good mixture of folks ranging in age from early 20s to late 30s.

Through BerkshireFlirt events, Dixon is ideally hoping for three things to happen: that people chat and network, that they meet someone with whom they’d like to go on a date, and that single men and women make new friends. As their friends pair off, it can feel isolating for those not in a couple.

“People don’t date anymore.” Dixon says, “They drink at bars, get too drunk, and end up having a one-night stand or jumping into a relationship with someone they don’t really know.”

The next BerkshireFlirt event, on Friday, March 27, will be larger, with 60 free tickets up for grabs and going fast. “We are so excited that George Manley is donating the use of his home for this free event,” Dixon says. Taggart House, Manley’s downtown Stockbridge abode, will host an hour of icebreakers beginning at 8:30 p.m., followed by dancing to the sounds of DJ RothFitz. Hors d’oeuvres, including Berkshire Bark chocolate, and a variety of cocktails, including beer and Prosecco, will be available.

Ideally, BerkshireFlirt would like to throw a singles mixer each month, and a handful of local venues have already offered to host them. “Public response has been overwhelmingly positive,” Dixon says. She encourages people to come out to events, and to like and share BerkshireFlirt’s facebook page. “Married people shouldn’t be afraid to support us and help us reach more people. Everyone knows someone who’s single. It’s a constantly evolving demographic — people get together, they break up; our demo could change within a couple of months. The more people who know about it, the better.“

“My goal is to change the culture of dating a little bit,” says Dixon. “Plus it’s a good excuse for people to get dressed up and go out.”

BerkshireFlirt Singles Mixer
Friday, March 27 beginning at 8 p.m.
Taggart House, 18 Main St., Stockbridge, MA
Icebreakers at 8:30 p.m., Dancing at 9:30 p.m.

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 03/16/15 at 11:19 PM • Permalink

Get A Round: Scoring At The Meet Market

By Amy Krzanik

Tinder, Grindr, GROWLr, Match, Hinge, Scruff: No, this isn’t a long-lost e.e. cummings poem or a list of possible names for a new Brooklyn bar; it’s a list of dating sites and apps and there’s plenty more where they came from. But for all the sophisticated mating technology out there, singles are still finding it difficult to connect.

Big Gay Hudson Valley is interested in changing that, by encouraging people to sign out of the virtual meat market and enter their real world “Meet Market.” The monthly pop-up gay bar, which premiered this past January, is held at Canvas, the lounge adjacent to The Artist’s Palate restaurant in Poughkeepsie. With an ever-changing roster of international and local singers and cabaret acts, the evening is a fun way to catch a show, enjoy high-end cocktails and snacks, and possibly meet your match.

And the punny Meet Market name isn’t just a throwaway notion—they went all the way with this theme. According to BGHV’s Stephan Hengst, the many Main Street butcher shops of Poughkeepsie’s past served as the inspiration. “We have a 1950 butcher shop aesthetic: the bartenders and bar backs wear red and white striped butcher’s outfits, the drink cases are decorated with real meat from the restaurant wrapped in paper and string, and there are giant vintage meat charts on the doors.”

Unlike a lot of bars and clubs, the scene at the Market is comprised of three separate areas with varying noise levels, some fit for dancing but also quieter spaces where it’s possible to hold a conversation. Hengst explains, “There’s a lounge up front with couches and tables, and a sea salt bar with great lighting and everyone looks good standing around that.”

On the roster for the next Meet Market on Saturday, March 14 is Hedda Lettuce from NYC and Beacon, NY’s own DJ Booksmart who will spin before and after the show. With her luscious mane of bright green hair, six-time Drag Queen of the Year Award-winner Hedda will help the crowd celebrate an early St. Patrick’s Day.

The Meet Market: Pop-up Gay Bar
Location: Canvas, 305 Main St., Poughkeepsie, NY
Next event: Saturday, March 14 from 8 p.m. - Midnight, $10

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 03/09/15 at 12:06 PM • Permalink

Fourth 10x10 Upstreet Arts Festival Is Collaborative And Creative

Eli Merritt Sculpture for Ten Spot.

By Lisa Green

If you’ve watched Pittsfield’s 10x10 Upstreet Arts Festival develop since its 2012 inception, you’ve witnessed the ideal of community collaboration in action. Returning for its fourth year February 12-22, the wintertime festival, which was created to get people out of hibernation, give artists a mid-winter creative boost and stimulate activity for Pittsfield businesses, continues to expand. This year, more organizations than ever wanted to participate (in fact, you’d be hard pressed to find an arts organization in the area that isn’t involved). The result: more events and originality magnified. 

Jen Glockner, director of Pittsfield’s Office of Cultural Development, says it was almost fluky how the newer events came together.

“We wanted to include The Berkshire Historical Society, because it’s so important to Pittsfield, and it turns out they were going to be opening their historical lingerie exhibit the same week,” she says. Crispina ffrench at Shire City Sanctuary was planning to do something for Valentine’s Day — and voilà, the two organizations collaborated. The Valentine’s Day dinner and dance party begins with the Historical Society’s Undergarment Fashion Show featuring ten models (some of whom you might know) wearing the lingerie — such as it was — from ten eras. (The three events have separate admission prices, so you came come to one or all). IS183, based in Stockbridge, was looking to bring a one-day painting workshop to Pittsfield’s Lichtenstein Center for the Arts, and was happy to fold that event into the festival.

And more serendipities: The Berkshire International Film Festival, which has participated every year, is celebrating its own special anniversary — it’s tenth, as it happens — so in celebration, will present the Best of Fest Shorts, 10 of some of the best short films selected from the past nine years of the film festival.

The coincidences continue: the Academy Awards show airs on — wait for it — the last day of the Pittsfield festivities. So BIFF is wrapping up the 10x10 with an Academy Awards party at The Beacon Cinema, complete with red carpet, a photo booth, drinks and buffet, and a big-screen simulcast of the awards ceremony.

Other new events include the 10 Minutes of Fireworks (on the Common on First Street), accompanied by a bonfire as well as sweet treats and warm drinks provided by Dottie’s Coffee Lounge. The Whitney Center for the Arts is hosting (among several other events) 10 Mini Trios by 10 Composers — a chamber music concert — and WAM Theatre returns to Pittsfield with a one-night-only staged reading of the critically acclaimed 2013 production of “Emilie: La Marquise Du Chatelet Defends Her Life Tonight.”

Festival regulars such as Gypsy Layne Cabaret and the Real Art Party are on the schedule. And one of the highlights, of course, is the 10x10 New Play Festival at Barrington Stage Company, which originated the 10x10 idea four years ago. With the 10x10 occurring as it does during the February school break, there is, as always, a lengthy lineup of kid-friendly events.

“This is just a great collaborative event,” says Kelley Vickery, director of BIFF. “Jen has taken what Megan Whilden [former director of the Office of Cultural Development] built and pumped it up.”

Next year, it might be more like 14x14.

The schedule is exciting and extensive, so your best bet is to check out the website. You’ll want to plan for it.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 02/02/15 at 03:28 PM • Permalink

10 Holiday Traditions We Love In The RI Region

By Rachel Louchen

The Rural Intelligence region is never short on things to do. But come the holidays, each weekend is packed with festivals, strolls, bazaars, parties and performances that have become beloved traditions. While some of these holiday happenings are fairly new, many of them have been going on for decades and it could hardly be the holiday season without them. Here are some of the most anticipated and celebrated traditions that evoke the holiday spirit year after year.

Litchfield County

Photo: Lyn Stirnweis

Kent Holly Days
November 28 – January 4
Kent Holly Days begins with a champagne stroll on November 28, but then keeps the holiday spirit running with a month of events. There is the nightly brass band and hot chocolate society, book signings, trunk shows, and the gingerbread contest, which is serious business. A highlight of the month-long Holly Days is the Kent Historical Society’s Colonial Christmas Celebration and the complimentary horse-drawn carriage rides from Kent Greenhouse.


New Preston Winter Stroll
Saturday, December 6, 3 - 6 p.m.

The entire charming Village of New Preston really lights up for the season when each storefront is ornately and beautifully decorated with festive lights and creative window displays. Inside, proprietors hand out complimentary drinks and treats amidst live music. The sixth-annual stroll is also unique because the entire town is pedestrian friendly; most of the antiques, clothing, home design, and book stores are all within walking distance to each other.


Photo: Don Perdue

Nutmeg’s Nutcracker, Torrington
Saturday, December 6, 2 p.m. & 7 p.m.; Sunday, December 2, 7 p.m.

One of the longest regional traditions is Nutmeg Ballet’s Nutcracker at the Warner Theatre in Torrington, now in its 45th year. The entire town looks forward to The Nutcracker’s return and the high-caliber performances by the ballet company, so it’s not unusual for attendees to attend multiple performances. Audiences of all ages will be delighted as they are whisked away on a magical Christmas journey through the Land of the Sugar Plum Fairies.

Dutchess County

Parade of Lights in Pine Plains
Saturday, November 29, 5 p.m.

If you’re going to wait out in the cold for a parade, it better be worth it, and the Pine Plains Parade of Lights does not disappoint. The 29th annual celebration begins with a day of events that includes decorating the town’s tree and a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus prior to the parade. The procession of cars and floats are, true to its name, all decked out with lights that set the entire hamlet aglow.



Sinterklaas, Rhinebeck
Saturday, December 6, 10 a.m. - 10 p.m.

Sinterklaas is an extremely old tradition, dating back 300 years in the Netherlands. But it has a very modern presence in Rhinebeck, with a day-long, town-wide celebration of performances and open houses. Events include live music, dancing, theater, puppet shows and storytelling followed, at dusk, by a starlight parade, plus food and drink and a late-night party for adults.


Columbia County


Hudson Winter Walk
Saturday, December 6, 5 - 8 p.m.

The words “cheerful” and “hip” seldom figure in the same sentence, much less one that’s about the holidays. Yet, somehow, Hudson’s Winter Walk is both. There is the Santa parade, street musicians, fireworks, and people in costume, and shops and restaurants turn into warm and welcoming havens. Fireworks launched over Warren Street conclude the festivities, but many of the shops and restaurants stay open late.


Berkshire County


It’s A Wonderful Life at Shakespeare & Company
December 5 – 28

We consider It’s A Wonderful Life required viewing during the holiday season. Shakespeare & Company has taken a cue and hosts a live radio show, where the story of George Bailey and the angel Clarence come alive on stage. The production was so successful when it premiered last year that it returns this winter and just may become a longtime tradition, much like watching the film has been to so many generations.


Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas
Friday, December 5 - Sunday, December 7 

Dreaming of an idyllic New England Christmas? The Stockbridge Chamber of Commerce offers one that’s straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Literally. For the past 25 years, the organizers have gone to great lengths to create a tableau vivant of Norman Rockwell’s iconic painting, “Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas”. Same decorations, same vintage cars — the only difference in the recreation is that the Red Lion Inn is all lit up; when Rockwell did his study, it was closed for the winter.


Williamstown Holiday Walk
Saturday, December 6, 3 - 6 p.m.

Williamstown decks the halls for its 31st annual Holiday Walk. The event has an old-fashioned New England feel to it with caroling and horse-drawn carriages, and classic events like visits from Santa and the live reading of A Christmas Carol. Don’t miss Saturday’s Reindog Parade, when dozens of family pets are dressed up as, you guessed it, Santa’s faithful animal sidekick. 


Photo: Joanna Geige

Great Barrington Holiday Stroll
Saturday, December 13, 3 - 7:30 p.m. 

The 6th annual Southern Berkshire Chamber of Commerce’s Holiday Stroll is the chamber’s largest community event, often attracting more than 3,000 attendees. This year features 50 food and product vendors, crafts, music, caroling, face painting, live window displays, a character parade, hayrides, and gifts to the kids from Santa Claus. The evening ends with a spectacular fireworks show that rivals any held on the Fourth of July.



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Posted by Rachel Louchen on 11/21/14 at 02:08 PM • Permalink

A Sweet Scene: Red Hook Celebrates Its Chocolate Heritage

“People are willing to brave horrible conditions just to eat chocolate!” said Kimberley McGrath Gomez, executive director of the Red Hook Chamber of Commerce.

Indeed. Last Saturday was a chilly, blustery day, but that didn’t seem to stop hordes of people from the village’s inaugural festival celebrating everything chocolate. Red Hook and the Chocolate Festival took its cue from the town’s once-thriving chocolate factory and opened with a “Learn How To Taste Chocolate” event conducted by CIA-trained chef Dan Budd at his shop, Taste Budd’s Chocolate and Coffee Café.

While there were plenty of events scheduled for kids (a Chocolate Bomb Skateboard Race, a Chocolate Wars bakeoff at the middle school and a Wandering Wonka), it was the adults who swarmed the chocolate vendors and strolled from store to store to taste the chocolates set out by retailers.

Merchants reported that they’d never seen so much activity in their stores…proving that chocolate is good for everyone and everything.

Video: Jamie Larson

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Posted by Lisa Green on 11/04/14 at 09:33 AM • Permalink

Getting Crafty: IMPACT At Etsy Provides Tools And Ideas For Entrepreneurs

Scott Tillitt, Re>Think board chair and Antidote Collective founder, and Ajax Greene, Re>Think board vice chair and On Belay business advisor.

By Jamie Larson

“Seminar” and “workshop” aren’t words you’d typically associate with the unconventional character of Hudson and Etsy. But the IMPACT series kicking off this week at Etsy’s customer support office in Hudson isn’t your father’s sales meeting.

IMPACT: Crafting a Thriving Venture for the New Economy is a series of six workshops with a goal of reinvigorating local businesses — both the old and new — with truly innovative tools and ideas for the new economy. It’s a home-grown venture with a focus on community, social and environmental responsibility and style. You don’t have to be an Etsy seller to take part. But it helps if you think like one.

A trio of Dutchess County-based organizations — the non-profit Re>Think Local and Antidote Collective and On Belay Business Advisors — and the worldwide, interpersonal online craft marketplace Etsy have launched the series to “provide universal tools and ideas for ‘craft’ entrepreneurs and local businesses at all levels.” The word craft in this context signifies anyone who approaches his or her business in an artisanal and thoughtful way. This being the Rural Intelligence region, that includes — well, just about everybody.

etsy1“Lots of people offer business workshops. Ours are different,” says Scott Tillitt, Re>Think board chair and Antidote Collective founder. “We talk about deeper vision and new economy values because consumers shop based on their values. We are also weaving in mindfulness. We have meditation practices as well because we recognize that it makes you more creative, calm and able to respond under pressure.”

The new economy has new goals, philosophies and buzzwords. Re>Think preaches “localism,” where local businesses and consumers create a community around shared values, which support a healthy, sustainable and socially conscious economy. Its mission talks about a “triple bottom line” where business owners seek to improve their financial profit as well as their social and environmental impact.

Workshop participants attend a preview party at the Etsy offices.

While the philosophy is central to the organizations, the goals and the workshops at Etsy are also very much grounded in the tangible skills small business owners need to grow their self confidence. The next couple of workshops focus on people and culture, legal strategies, and accounting and finance issues.

“What tends to happen in a solo-owned company is that the founder has invented this, let’s say, widget, but doesn’t know anything about marketing or other really important tools. We are supplying those tools,” says Ajax Greene, Re>Think board vice chair and On Belay business advisor. “No one person is a wildly creative marketer and an anal-retentive accountant and every other thing a small business needs.”

Melissa Gibson, who will be leading the Marketing workshop at Etsy Hudson on October 13 (she’s on the Re>Think advisory council), says too often small business owners get overwhelmed and spread themselves too thin because they’re trying to do everything themselves.

Melissa Gibson, Marketing workshop leader and Re>Think advisory council member.

“Very often small businesses lack a marketing budget,” Melissa says. “The biggest marketing secret is collaboration; work with others around you with shared interests and a common cause. Aside from being cost effective, mentorship and networking in general is so valuable.”

Etsy seemed a natural host for the IMPACT series despite the fact that it’s far from local. (It has, in fact, global status.) But though the website may have evolved into a worldwide marketplace, in many ways each of the nearly one million sellers on Etsy is a small business. For its sellers, which include many businesses in our region, Etsy is the economy.

“It helps us to host these events too,” says Jed Thorn, Etsy’s Manager of General Support. “We have a global outreach but from this office’s inception we wanted to be a part of the community. Etsy is by no means a small business anymore, but in this office, the world we inhabit is small business all day. every day.”

This is the collaborating group of support organizations’ first foray into Columbia County, but with the ever-growing number of small businesses here, especially in Hudson, the guidance and partnership appear more than welcome and poised for reward.

To find out more about IMPACT and register for workshops, visit http://www.antidotecollective.org/events/impact-workshops-2014

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 10/06/14 at 07:24 PM • Permalink

Young Farmers Create Hudson’s New Upstreet Farmers’ Market

ch1

Dan McManus and Tess Parker, co-owners of Common Hands Farm, started the Upstreet Market.

By Jamie Larson

With wide smiles, good intentions and dirt under their fingernails, the next generation of Columbia County farmers just, casually, reinvented the farmers market— by moving from Saturday morning to Wednesday evenings and out of the municipal lot and into the public park.

But it isn’t just the day and location; everything about the Upstreet Farmers’ Market, which kicked off July 30 in Hudson’s beautiful, if a little gritty, 7th Street Park, feels different. It’s cool on the grass, under the trees. There’s art and music and craft booths, lots of pedestrians and a working-class party atmosphere you don’t see on a Saturday morning. The entrepreneurial spirit at Upstreet, started by Dan McManus and Tess Parker, of Common Hands Farm, and Lori Weaver of Diamond Hills Farm, feels a little fresher, a little less polished and more youthful. At the nucleus of the market are a handful of farms founded and run by hard-working millennials quietly redefining what a successful local farm can look like.

Lori Weaver, owner of Diamond Hills Farm, is a co-founder of the market.

“The catalyzing point was last fall. We’ve been wanting to vend in Hudson and to give people a way to pick up during the week.” said Parker, who, like many new farmers, hasn’t been able to get coveted booth space at the long-established Sunday Hudson Farmer’s Market.

“We quickly saw there was a need,” McManus said, adding that the central location, day and time (4 to 7 p.m.) were really important to him. “It’s a different crowd than Hudson on the weekends. People who work in town are getting off, they’re tired and they need something to eat. We are setting a mood for a gathering place in the park where people can relax and eat or pick something up.”

Part of the mission of the Upstreet Market, which will operate until November 19 and has about 15 booths, is to allow all aspects of life in the area to share the space. They are looking for more farms who want join them, but also artists of all kinds who want a different kind of venue to share their work. While available space does fill up, McManus says there will always be a rotating guest booth so there is a spot for a new farm or craftsperson to get exposure every week.

farm3

Cleo Post tends the booth for Highland Farm.

“Open air anything is much more pleasurable,” said mixed-media artist Mary Brueckmann, standing next to her display of broken glass portraits. “You have all types. The vibe here makes a huge difference.”

Sitting on a shady bench taking in the fountain, Linda Mussmann, owner of the Time and Space Limited theater and art center said it’s nice to see some action in town off the main business district of Warren Street. “It’s a perfect place and a great atmosphere,” she said. “It definitely suits these young farmers. It’s inviting.”

“It’s so nice to have something mid-week. It’s not competing with the weekend market and there are a lot of things that are different,” added Jennifer Stockmeier, who’s been to the market each week since it opened. “I personally like to know the people I’m buying from and this is so local.”

The laid-back atmosphere is undoubtedly a byproduct of youth in the booths. Common Hands, Diamond Hills, Ten Barn, and Green Mead (all represented at the market) are just a few of the growing number of farms started and run by earnest, hard-working folks still in the summer of their lives.

“Everyone is working really hard so being able to get together at the market creates a community of peers,” said Parker, adding that this new generation of farmers, which has been popping up over the past few years, seems a bit more flexible and willing to take risks.

The 7th Street Park in Hudson, once home to the city’s more nefarious trades, is now the site of Upstreet’s more wholesome activities.

“We are trying to find our niche and we’re using multiple [marketing] strategies,” she said. “[Being new] means you specialize more but you also don’t want to try and do too much and spread yourself too thin. I make good money on edible flowers and herbs. I didn’t expect that.”

The farmers at Upstreet are humble about their early success and acknowledge that the Hudson Valley and Berkshires are very supportive regions for their goods and agricultural ethos. But they still need places to get their name and high quality product in the public eye, and that’s why Upstreet has been so welcome.

“There’s a lot of walk through-traffic here. People who might not know the market, or know our farm, just stop by,” said Lori Weaver, of Diamond Hills Farm, whose table is a photo gallery of cute animals. “This is a really good opportunity for newer farms coming up.”

last

Dan Wall deftly picks his banjo at the Upstreet Farmers’ Market.

“I don’t know if it’s as easy elsewhere” for young people to start a farm, Parker said. “I think our generation is drawn to farming because it’s a noble cause. And it’s a backlash against the idea of having all this debt and meaningless jobs our parents generation worked.”

Upstreet Market
4-7 p.m. Wednesdays until November 19, reopening May 2015.
7th Street Park Hudson NY

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 09/08/14 at 04:25 PM • Permalink

TEDxHudson To Bring Big Ideas – And Big Names — To Town

Photo by Amanda Marsalis.

By Greg Cerio

The revered chef Alice Waters [in photo, left] has much in common, perhaps surprisingly, with Theodore Roosevelt. For example, they enjoy some of the same regional cuisine.

On October 8, 1914, the Boston Globe reported: “Col. Roosevelt likes the soup they make in Hudson.” The previous day, the former president had a speaking engagement in the upstate New York city. However, he kept his audience at Hudson Opera House waiting while he ate not one but two bowls of vegetable soup brought to him from a nearby lunchroom. “I have to be fed,” Roosevelt explained.

Almost exactly 100 years later to the day, on Saturday, September 27, Waters, proprietor of the famed Berkeley, California, restaurant Chez Panisse and a leading light of the “farm-to-table” food movement, will take the same stage to express her own appreciation for — if not the soup, specifically — the food grown, raised and prepared in the Hudson area. The occasion is the debut event for TEDxHudson, one of the newest of the locally cultivated organizations that arrange public conferences and colloquies under the aegis of TED — an acronym for Technology, Entertainment, Design — the influential, globally oriented “big ideas” summit held annually since 1990.

Waters will be the guest of honor at the daylong symposium, and will introduce the main speaker, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., head of the international environmental advocacy group Waterkeeper Alliance. And while the physical landscape — from the local farmlands to the health of the Hudson River and global watersheds in general — will be the topics of the day, the underlying context of TEDxHudson is the cultural landscape of the host city.

A list of all upcoming TEDxHudson speakers will be announced next month, but, with its A-list headliners, the September 27 event is clearly an auspicious start. Along with the establishment of antiques and art galleries, the Basilica Hudson events space and the Marina Abramovic Institute, and the opening of numerous admired and inventive restaurants, the inauguration of TEDxHudson is another step in a noteworthy civic revival.

TEDxHudson was the brainchild of Richard D. Katzman, a local business leader and patron of Hudson Opera House. As a longtime attendee of annual TED conferences, Katzman was eligible to secure a license for TEDx events. Tambra Dillon, the visionary co-director of Hudson Opera House, took the idea and ran with it. “Tammy and [HOH co-director] Gary Schiro were so enthusiastic. They knew what this meant,” says Martha Holmes, a member of the TEDxHudson operating committee. “They knew this was an anointment of the town. Having a TEDx means you’ve earned a place in the discussion. You’re bringing in people who have something to say to people who want to listen.”

Like Teddy Roosevelt, those people need to be fed. Lunch for the expected 250 patrons of the TEDxHudson event — included with the $85 ticket, along with après-speeches cocktails — will be provided by Mona Talbott, a friend of Waters and a former cook at Chez Panisse.

The founder of the Sustainable Food Project at The American Academy of Rome, Talbott recently moved to the Hudson area — she will open a specialty food store there in October — and is a perfect exemplar of the community-mindful cook. Her menu is far from finalized, but Talbott plans to offer three options, each highlighting the produce and proprietors of a local farm. The boxed lunches will include some kind of short, written narrative about each farm, says Talbott. “Lunch won’t just be something that tastes good; it will also tell a story.”

Just as the story of Hudson’s rebirth is being written, by people like Talbott and the organizers of TEDxHudson.

TEDxHudson at the Hudson Opera House
Saturday, September 27, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
$85 (ticket includes lunch and cocktail reception)
To purchase tickets, call (518) 822-1438 or order through the website.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 08/11/14 at 02:24 PM • Permalink

Like a Rock: Robert Burke Warren at the Hudson Opera House

uncle rock in wagonBy Nichole Dupont

He calls himself “Uncle Rock,” but musician-songwriter-teacher Robert Burke Warren is soundly rooted in the role of father. This occupation, according to the Georgia native, has brought him full circle from his first band with then front-man RuPaul to penning ballads for Rosanne Cash, back to performing, this time trading up the leather pants and kerosene breath for Crocs and the occasional sippy cup.

“I’ve become a better guitar player, and a decent singer now that I’m performing so much,” Warren laughs over the phone. He and his family (wife/rock writer Holly George-Warren and son Jack) are on the last leg of the journey home to the Catskills from a vacation in North Carolina. “It’s kind of a surprising endeavor, the Uncle Rock thing. I actually think performing for kids is a lot more fun. The kids dance. They’re really uninhibited. It’s a whole new world of playing music.”

On Saturday, Uncle Rock will be bringing his unique blend of “acoustically driven songwriter folk” to the Hudson Opera House for fans of all ages to enjoy. (The show starts at 10 a.m. so best to avoid living like a rock star the night before.)

Warren is a rock veteran who sounded off his career at an age when most of us were learning to drive and smoke cigarettes. In his late teens, with his band Wee Wee Pole, Warren toured the South as a bassist and swankishly lost soul (and yes, with RuPaul who Warren described was at that time “more of a thrift-store cross-dresser than a drag queen”). A few bands, a stint as the lead in a West End run of The Buddy Holly Story, a songwriting collaboration with Rosanne Cash and eight albums later, Uncle Rock is utilizing all his coolness and talent and hard-earned experience to teach kids about music.

“I stayed at home with my son [Jackson] for the first five years of his life. It was so much more than I thought it would be,” Warren recalls. “I’m a songwriter, so my life is my raw material. Becoming a parent changed everything for me, my perspective on the world. My son and his peers, I was in that world.”

Robert Burke WarrenApparently, it is a world that suits Warren—himself raised by a single mother—very much. In 2006, Uncle Rock, a Grammy-nominated “kindie troubadour” who tours the region bringing music and ol’ fashioned rock n’ roll to the doorsteps of Dora-weary parents, was born. Most recently, Warren, along with alt-rock violinist Tracy Bonham, schooled a group of kindergarten kids at the Paul Green Rock Academy in Woodstock, NY.

“The rock camp is music appreciation at its best. Many of the kids haven’t spent a lot of time around people who play music,” Warren says. “Rock is an organic, sort of primal thing that they can do and everyone can perform in some way. We’ve got go-go dancers, percussionists, some guitarists. Demystifying music is a big part of what I do.”

Demystifying it for the kids, and actually making music enjoyable for the parents, is a Herculean task in this era of Kidz Bop albums that make most parents want to shove an icepick through their ears. Warren successfully officiates over the marriage of rock n’ roll and (somewhat) wholesome parenting, engaging the latte-craving adults as well as their pint-sized rock stars.

“An Uncle Rock gig is the best when parents are engaged with the kids. It’s an old-fashioned timeless situation to have everybody singing these classic tunes,” he says. “It’s potent. It’s an ancient kind of method of connection and it’s my favorite thing to do.”

And to the hard-asses who would turn their noses up at Warren’s decision to consecrate his musical talent and wisdom with the family crowd, he just laughs with the easy knowledge that any musical legend worth his or her salt has to be able to speak to the masses. And that includes moms, dads, grandparents and the future urchins of rock.

“My heroes are people who did a lot of things—Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie—they covered a lot of children’s material and got everybody involved,” Warren says. “And I’m someone, too, who wears a lot of hats.”

Uncle Rock on Saturday, August 16 @ 10 a.m.
Tix: $10/$8 members; $6 kids
Hudson Opera House
327 Warren Street, Hudson, NY
518-822-1438

 

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Posted by Nichole on 08/01/14 at 05:40 PM • Permalink