‘Looks Like Laury, Sounds Like Laury’ A Portrait Made With Love
By Nichole Dupont
Connie Shulman and Laury Sacks.
Imagine the most vibrant person in your life; Sharp-witted, the life of the party, compassionate. The story seems always to begin with this beloved main character, who suddenly starts acting very strange. That’s where Laury Sack’s story began, and it’s in that moment that her good friend, documentarian Pamela Hogan, who lives part-time in Litchfield County, let the camera loose to chronicle the devastating effects of Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD) on Laury, just 46 at the time of her diagnosis, and on those who loved her beyond the grip of this mystery disease.
“She was always so funny, and she let the audience know that it was OK to laugh,” says Hogan. “It was unthinkable, and she laughed a lot about it because it just doesn’t get any more absurd.”
“Looks Like Laury, Sounds Like Laury” will be screening at the Scoville Memorial Library in Salisbury on Friday, April 24 at 7 p.m. It is the first in what Hogan hopes are many screenings across the country to raise awareness about early onset dementia, FTD and Alzheimer’s, especially for those who are caregivers and families trying to muddle through the diagnosis just as Laury’s husband and two children did. A talk-back with the producers will follow the screening.
Hogan [left], who is an Emmy-award winning producer and director — her credits include PBS’s Wide Angle series, NBC’s “To Be an American,” and her own films such as “Time for School” and Ladies First” — had to find the delicate balance between work and friendship in order to capture Laury’s experience without invading her dear friend’s life.
“We decided that we were going to film two times a week and only at times that worked for her, not first thing in the morning when they were having breakfast or things like that,” she says. “And we had to shoot in short bursts and find out what was going on in that particular week. She always played for the camera, you can just tell.”
Each scene is a backwards milestone: Laury not able to remember common words, Laury struggling to make fennel soup, Laury refusing to acknowledge the home companion assigned to her. The decline is rapid as more and more of Laury gets buried inside and friends family turn into babysitters — including good friend and fellow mother and actor Connie Shulman (Yoga Jones on Netflix’s “Orange Is The New Black”), who tries to make a cake with Laury, with some success.
“Turns out, it’s the first experiential film of a person with FTD. Eric [Laury’s husband] says he wished so much that there had been a film like this when Laury — an actor — was diagnosed,” Hogan says. “I like to listen to other people’s stories and Laury was getting me right in my zone. I did this documentary as a tribute to her and I did it because she asked me to, to come and document that year. It was an independent project. I hope it strikes a chord in people when they see it.”
The hope is that the film, and Laury’s life, will be helpful to people like Katie Brandt who just three years ago lost her husband Mike to FTD, a disease which affects 50,000-60,000 Americans, and has no known cure. Mike was only 33 years old when he passed away and the couple had a toddler, Noah, who was born at the onset of his father’s symptoms. Like Laury Sacks, Brandt used humor to get through the situation.
“I had an infant at home, I was taking care of Mike who was really starting to act like a toddler and then my Dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at the age of 59, so he came to live with us. I shrugged my shoulders and was laughing in kind of a crazy way thinking ‘are you kidding me?’” she says. “What else could I do? We use humor as a tool to survive it, otherwise it takes you down with it.”
Not allowing the Job-like experience to crush her, Brandt has turned it into what she calls her “life’s work,” giving talks and presentations to hospitals, research centers, universities, foundations, pharmaceutical companies and even the State House in Boston about her husband’s fight with FTD. She is also a consultant at Mass General’s FTD unit where she works to help families through the process of the diagnosis and beyond. Both she and Hogan hope that sharing their experiences will ease some of the burden and raise awareness.
“I did two sit-down interviews with Laury during filming,” says Hogan. “In one of the interviews, I asked her ‘what do you hope for?’ And she said ‘I hope for the truth.’ I think that’s the closest she’s come to revealing what she wanted us to know about this disease.”
Enjoy this post? Share it with others.
Silo Ridge In Amenia: A Wealth of Controversy In Development
A rendering of the future clubhouse. Image courtesy of Silo Ridge.
[Editor’s note: A few weeks ago, we reposted a New York Times article on our Facebook page. For many of us, “When Rural Meets Resort: Hamptons Style Development Comes to the Hudson Valley” was the first we’d heard of this ultra-luxury development in the works in Amenia, NY. The quick and passionate responses from our readers to The Times’ rather starry-eyed coverage prompted us to ask RI’s Jamie Larson to report on the issue from a more local and, we hope, balanced perspective. We invite readers to continue the dialogue on our Facebook page.]
By Jamie Larson
Over the past few weeks, the impending development of Silo Ridge Field Club, in Amenia, NY, has come under increased scrutiny. The gated, Hudson Valley-themed, millionaires-only, private golf course community has been taken to task for its impact on the area, its scale, and for some, its tone-deaf approximation of regional authenticity.
For years concerns about the plan stayed insulated in the general area of Amenia, but after a glowing article about Silo Ridge appeared in the New York Times on March 8, groans of disapproval echoed through the valley and across social media (including RI’s own) denouncing the project, which will likely receive final approval in the next few months.
Smithfield landscape designer Liz Faulkner well encapsulated the discontent in her public comment, quoted here from an article by Antonia Shoumatoff in The Millbrook Independent:
“This development is going to bring a more suburban quality to our area and our historical heritage is agricultural. There are generations of people here who have worked on the land. It is obvious that the applicant has done very little to understand the real cultural heritage of Amenia. This is (a) proposal for a level of leisure that is not what this small town is all about.”
Construction progress on the golf course last fall. Image courtesy of Silo Ridge.
To be set on 800 acres of a southeast Dutchess County ridgeline, across the street from the Wassaic Metro-North train station, Silo Ridge has been a hotly contested issue for over a decade. The original plan for a golf community, including a 300-room hotel and a five-story parking garage, stalled during the recession. Then in 2013, the project roared back to life when mega-resort community developers Discovery Land Company bought in and took the lead, turning the plan into a retreat for the super-rich family looking for a second, third or fourth home close to Manhattan as well as the cluster of prestigious private schools in the Southern Dutchess area.
Issues in Town
Amenians do have some legitimate and specific concerns. There are issues regarding water facilities and wastewater mitigation from the homes and golf course. And the local viewshed, lovingly referred to as “The Gateway to the Berkshires,” will be affected.
The entrance to Silo Ridge.
“(The Developers) have claimed that their community will have minimal visual impact,” wrote Amenia Town Historian Arlene Juliano, in her public comment. “The townspeople have tended ‘as a whole’ to say otherwise…To us (the landscape) is a historic treasure that has been described as beautiful since the time of the Indians and first settlers until today.”
Another concern is that the town has not insisted developers bond the project to protect the municipality from having to pay for costly completion or removal of partially built infrastructure if the plan falls through. While default may be unlikely, former credit surety officer John A. Duffy pointed out in his public comment that “Discovery Land was foreclosed on by its lender, Comerica Bank, in connection with the Spanish Oaks project in Texas in 2010.” They also own Yellowstone Club in Big Sky Montana which defaulted on a $375 million loan in November 2008, though they have since bounced back. The planning board still has a short amount of time before final approval to make a decision to require a bond but at present, for Silo Ridge, the money and buyer interest appears to be solid, with hundreds of people showing up for a “sales bash” on October 18, 2014.
A recent view across the future home of Silo Ridge from Lake Amenia Road.
“There are a lot of people, no matter what you do, that are going to have a problem,” said partial owner Pedro Torres, whose family, originally from South America, bought the existing golf course property in 2000 and developed the original plan. “I think in the long term, it’s going to be a great asset for the town but people are afraid of change. I think people will realize it will not have the effect they fear. This project is completely unique to the community and we have a lot of people interested, some big names,” he continued, not naming names. “The fact is there is nothing like this anywhere in the northeast.”
Selling the Hudson Valley
A rendering of a multimillion-dollar home at Silo Ridge. Image courtesy of Silo Ridge.
Discovery, which owns, or is building, golf communities from Mexico to South Hampton, and has sold homes to the likes of Bill Gates and George Clooney, downscaled the Silo Ridge plan in size, to about 250 homes total. But it has upscaled its profile immensely by privatizing the community, with unit prices now ranging from $1 to $10 million. After you stomach the sticker price, the dues are $25,000 a year with a $100,000 up-front buy-in.
“It’s worth it because we are providing access to $250 million worth of amenities. It’s everything they want in one location. We’re selling the Hudson Valley,” said Discovery executive Daniel O’Callaghan in mater-of-fact justification of the cost. “We have so many members with places at our other properties who live in the city and said ‘we love the Discovery experience and we’d love it if you could provide it for a quick weekend getaway.’”
Image courtesy of Silo Ridge.
Silo Ridge Field Club will pamper residents with more lavish amenities than its name has folksy nouns. Centered around an 18-hole designer golf course, the community will include home maintenance and upkeep services, a spa, equestrian facility, shooting range, a kids club, an indoor sports pavilion, a lake and a small farm where residents can garden if they wish, and where produce will be grown for a “farm to table” inspired clubhouse restaurant.
“People often move up here and get a big house, build it up, join three or four clubs, then after a while, the kids grow up and leave, and you have this huge facility you still need to maintain,” Torres said of the numerous large estates in the area. “Silo Ridge is turnkey. You can come up and just enjoy yourself.”
Spreading the Wealth
One factor even skeptics can’t ignore is that, financially, the municipality of Amenia will win the lottery if Discovery and its ownership partners pull off Silo Ridge as envisioned. The projected tax revenue for the town, over 10 years, is more than $20 million. The needy fire district is slated to see $1.7 million and the school district is looking at an astounding $42 million increase over the next decade. If that doesn’t give you pause enough, Torres pointed out that because the planning board required these estimates be based on construction costs, not anticipated home sale prices, he expects these figures to double.
Amenia Town Supervisor Victoria Perotti.
Then there are the jobs. There are projected to be thousands of construction jobs created over the years to come and more than 150 full-time jobs with benefits for local folks once all the facilities are up and running. The jobs are desperately needed here, after the town’s largest employer, the Taconic Disabilities Services Office, left two years ago.
“People were concerned about losing Amenia as we know it. I think they [Discovery] have tailored a community that looks like us,” Town Supervisor Victoria Perotti said of the estate, which will take design cues from the region, using stone and reclaimed wood in its structures. “The difference between Silo Ridge and Discovery’s other projects is this is geared more towards families. It may not be ‘authentic’ but they want to feel like they are a part of the Hudson Valley. And it will certainly be good for businesses, which is exactly what we need.”
The Cultural Context
A view of ongoing golf course construction last fall. Image courtesy of Silo Ridge.
While the scope of Silo Ridge may be new to the valley, Millbrook town historian and preservationist David Greenwood says we need to find a balance between protecting our history and adapting to inevitable change.
“For generations we have been a destination,” Greenwood said, looking at the whole issue through the wide lenses that historians tend to wield. “You can either appreciate that or not. We are constantly in a state of change. It’s the impact of that change we should be concerned about. That’s why the developers have to listen to people. There have been opportunities for people to speak. The question is, how much have (developers) heard?’”
Something that continues to trouble locals and online observers about Silo Ridge is its attempt to appropriate the aesthetic and character of the Hudson Valley without participating in the community that crafted that style in the first place.
Silo Ridge Field Club’s titular silos.
Greenwood said, through the process, he’s seen that some people do feel insulted by the perceived exploitation of their style and the developer’s use of sales jargon like “Heirloom Community,” but the tactic, and that particular turn of phrase, comes from a long tradition of developers selling nostalgia.
“Architecture is the tangible legacy of the people who settled here,” Greenwood said. “But nothing is settled in time. Everything is evolving and this is an example of that.”
While the historian takes a justifiably magnanimous position, others in the area and the wider region see their way of life broken down and repackaged as rides at a Hudson Valley themed amusement park they can’t afford to enter. As final approval draws near, only time will tell if this manufactured community will be an island unto itself or a real part of the fabric of Amenia and the Valley it’s trying so hard to recreate.
Enjoy this post? Share it with others.
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.
Photo: Michael Compitello
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.
Enjoy this post? Share it with others.
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.”
Enjoy this post? Share it with others.
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
Enjoy this post? Share it with others.
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.
Enjoy this post? Share it with others.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Enjoy this post? Share it with others.
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
Enjoy this post? Share it with others.
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.
“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
Enjoy this post? Share it with others.
Young Farmers Create Hudson’s New Upstreet Farmers’ Market
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.
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.”
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.”
4-7 p.m. Wednesdays until November 19, reopening May 2015.
7th Street Park Hudson NY