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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

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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.

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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.”

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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

Pittsfield’s Free Shakespeare In The Park Is To Be

By Lisa Green

Ask Enrico Spada [right] why he wanted to start a free Shakespeare in the Park venture — in Pittsfield — and he’ll give you a couple of reasons: I saw it being done successfully in other cities. I wanted the opportunity to work on a play with local actors. The city of Pittsfield really deserves this kind of a project.

It’s all true. But after saying all that, he admits his motivation was a lot simpler.

“I just wanted to do it,” says Spada, who for the past 8 years has taught, directed and performed at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox.  And he — with a lot of community support — has made Pittsfield Shakespeare in the Park happen. The first production, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, opens July 17 in Pittsfield’s Springside Park. It’ll run through July 27, with performances Thursday through Saturday.

Pittsfield these days is all about culture (the downtown, called Upstreet, was the first city in western Massachusetts to be designated a cultural district by the Massachusetts Cultural Council in 2012), and no doubt the city’s zeitgeist helped push Spada’s concept forward. With the backing of Pittsfield’s former Director of Cultural Development Megan Whilden, he approached the Parks Commission last fall, applied for and received a grant from the Pittsfield Cultural Council, met the matching grant from Berkshire Money Management and secured sponsorships from other businesses.

Assistant Stage Manager Haley Barbieri, Stage Manager Alex Reczkowski, Director Enrico Spada and Julie Castagna, an actor, in rehearsal at the Whitney Center. Photo by Fiona Barnett-Mulligan.

“We’re putting this together through the kindness and generosity of strangers,” Spada says. Barrington Stage and the Monument Mountain Regional High School’s drama program have donated the costumes. A stage is being built with lumber provided by Berkshire Production Resources, and the set is made from pallets and barn doors (“an abstract design,” Spada quips). Spada himself is not only directing but also doing the sound design.

But the resources Spada seems most proud of are the local actors. “They’re really talented and don’t get the chance to do Shakespeare except in the winter,” he says. The actors comes in all sizes and ages, from about 6 years old and up. There’s even a dog in the company (and she’s a pro; this is her second production, so she’s not apt to forget her lines). Since Spada has directed Shakespeare & Company’s Fall Festival of Shakespeare high school residency program for seven years, plus other K-12 residency programs, getting the younger set involved was a no brainer. And really, their presence in the production will make Shakespeare just that much more accessible to kids in the audience, an important target market.

Maizy Broderick Scarpa as Puck in rehearsal at the Whitney Center. Photo by Fiona Barnett-Mulligan.

The play, slightly abridged, starts at 8 p.m. to take advantage of the night sky, but everybody will be out by 10:15 or so. Prior to the start time at selected performances, the company will be offering “interactive pre-show workshops,” an opportunity for people to play with Shakespeare’s text, movement and dancing.

Although Midsummer’s eight performances are the only shows scheduled this summer, Spada would like to see the lineup increase to two (if not more) next year.

“My goal is to raise enough money to hire artists to do all the technical parts so I can just produce and direct,” he says.

To kick off the opening night of Pittsfield Shakespeare in the Park, Cultural Pittsfield is throwing a mini fundraiser during the Third Thursday street party on July 17 from 5-8 p.m. Actors from the company, as well as local artists (who will be selling their work), will gather under a tent for a meet-and-greet. Hors d’oeuvres will be provided by Mission Bar + Tapas. Admission fee is $5.

Pittsfield Shakespeare in the Park  
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
July 17-27, Thursday through Sunday at 8 p.m.
Springside Park, 874 North Street, Pittsfield, MA

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Posted by Lisa Green on 07/06/14 at 05:35 PM • Permalink

10 Things To Love About Falls Village

By Kimberly Jordan Allen

Chubby Bunny Farm

Each town in Connecticut has its own character, and Falls Village is no exception. Falls Village, a part of Canaan, CT, is a distinctive blend of farmers, home-schooling iconoclasts, entrepreneurs, homesteaders, weekenders, locals and tastefully irreverent creative types. With everything from a renovated church that is now a home, to ultra-modern abodes, to 18th- and 19th-Century architectural styles, Falls Village is eclectic and bold. I’ve lived in Falls Village for the last nine years, and though my family and I spend a lot of time throughout the tristate area, our hearts belong to this beloved town. Here are a few reasons to praise the noble hamlet.

1. Local, local, local: Chubby Bunny Farm.The farm, run by the gracious and unassuming Tracy and Dan Hayhurst, not only provides delectable local organic meat and vegetables, but also nourishes the town as a beacon for the community with its openhearted manner. Tracy and Dan are always inviting folks to drop by, participate, walk the land and volunteer. A new Chubby Bunny farmstand has opened on Undermountain Road, where the farm is located, and you can peruse fresh vegetables and fruits as well as products from other nearby purveyors, including Hosta Hill (kimchi and sauerkraut), Mead’s Maple Syrup, Whippoorwill (beef), Howling Flats Farm (pork), Lost Ruby Farm (goat cheese), Rustling Winds (raw milk and yogurt), and Adamah Farm. The stand is open during the harvest season Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m.–6 p.m.

2. The Falls Village Inn. Built 175 years ago, the inn rests at the heart of the small center of town and has been a significant part of its evolution. Four years ago, the Falls Village Inn was purchased, renovated and updated in a fresh, welcoming aesthetic. With the talent of local folks such as the Cockerlines and interior designer Bunny Williams, the inn was imbued with a new luster and has become the go-to watering hole. It features a welcoming front hall, freshly designed guest rooms, a taproom for more casual fare, and a wraparound porch and formal dining room. You can pop in for an organic, grass-fed burger, or linger over shepherd’s pie by the fireplace. The staff is always on-point and very kid-friendly. They always have crayons at the ready, and are willing to replace a spilled cranberry juice without blinking. It’s this kind of no-rush, hometown pace that keeps us coming back for more.

3. The flora and fauna. The Falls Village Flower Farm is a favorite place to find native and non-native plants. Husband and wife team Tom and Roberta Scott have been growing, gardening, and advising for 20 years. Whether you’re seeking perennials, vegetables, or just want to talk plants, this family is always available. Expect to be greeted by two jovial pups.

4. The sounds. Music Mountain is well known for its long-standing chamber music events throughout the summer, but it also features jazz, folk, cabaret, big band and opera events during the season. This is a picturesque spot to enjoy an evening of entertainment with friends and family.

5. Education and community. Isabella Freedman and Adamah Farm are part of a vibrant learning organization that practices sustainability, environmental education and spiritual practice. Adamah is run by Isabella Freedman, a Jewish retreat center that offers workshops, as well as providing community events and CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture shares). The retreat center is situated on a beautiful piece of land populated by happy goats and folks of all ages. At their small shop, and some farmer’s markets, you can find their delicious goat milk yogurt and pickled goods.

6. The great outdoors. Great Mountain Forest is the place to go if you want to learn how to use that chainsaw properly (don’t we all?), study different birds and their nests, or just immerse yourself in an incredibly beautiful landscape. Led by Jody Bronson, forest manager and always-smiling fixture, this property is a bucolic place to hike, bike, cross-country ski, or snowshoe. The property features approximately 6,000 acres of protected land (crossing from Canaan into Norfolk) that serves as a learning environment, as well as functioning as a National Weather Service Cooperative Weather Observer Station. The Yale School of Forestry, and other schools and conservation organizations use the land to learn more about our natural habitat.

7. The cafes. Toymakers Cafe is a fixture in town, offering British-infused meal choices, including bangers and mash; epic sweet potato waffles; fresh espresso; and stimulating conversation. We’ve frequented this restaurant—which is actually a house complete with couches and comfy chairs—for years and there is always a friendly, familiar face to be seen. It is rare to go anywhere in Falls Village where folks don’t know your name and Greg and Annie—the married couple who own the café—are always sure to socialize and check-in with their customers. Greg is a longtime biker (think Triumph as opposed to Harleys), and Toymakers draws motor enthusiasts.

Just down Route 7, Mountainside Café has reopened after a few years and the town is thrilled. Stories are told of their famous pancake breakfasts and the café has been updated with a new menu. Mountainside Treatment Center, a large employer in neighboring Canaan, CT, is a thriving organization that offers substance abuse treatment and awareness programming. One of the ways Mountainside serves this goal is through their café. The restaurant employs newly sober people as a way to assist in their recovery process. The food, locally provided by some of the farms mentioned above, is delicious. This is another enticing spot where folks congregate.

8. The water. No discussion of the area would be complete without touching on the raw beauty of this Northwestern Connecticut town and the Housatonic River that punctuates the landscape. Affectionately called “the Housy” by locals, the river features the dramatic Great Falls (hence the name) of the town that provides dynamic river features for kayakers, tubers and nature enthusiasts alike. In the summer, you can find people fishing and swimming in the area, or just strolling along the riverbanks.

9. The land. The Appalachian Trail runs through Falls Village and each summer sees thru-hikers stopping for a rest or some food. Taking time to enjoy the Connecticut section of this iconic trail is a must and provides for some scenic vistas, as well as time along the Housatonic River, including the rugged Great Falls section.

10. The hub of it all. The late-Victorian David M. Hunt Library is a true hub for the town. The library was founded in 1889. We love to visit it at different times of year. During Halloween, library staff build a fire where folks meet for catching up and making s’mores. During the late spring, an annual plant sale provides a venue for lively discussions of heirlooms, the latest town meeting, or to simply find starter plants for the garden. Each week, staff holds story time for kids.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 06/09/14 at 02:07 PM • Permalink

10 Things To Love About Red Hook

By Jamie Larson

The Town of Red Hook seems to encapsulate everything we like about Dutchess County and, indeed, all the pleasures of the eastern shore of the Hudson Valley. Pastoral farmlands surround and blend seamlessly into quaint villages that offer some incredibly refined metropolitan attractions while clothed in the relaxed fit of rural comfort. The town is a vibrant cell with two nuclei, the Village of Red Hook and the Village of Tivoli, each unique and each worth a visit.

dinerThe Historic Village Diner
Sometimes there’s one place that captures the feel of a village. The first New York diner ever to be put on the National Register of Historic Places, the Village Diner hasn’t changed much since it was fabricated in the 1920s. Old as it may be, it still might as well be the center of town. Everyone in town, and from other places far and wide, meets here and eats here. If you want a table on the weekend, come early or be prepared to wait. Let’s be clear, Red Hook folks don’t just come for nostalgia’s sake. They come for the amazing food. It’s a traditional, long diner menu done perfectly, and sometimes even better.

Tivoli Bays Park
I think we’ve made it clear that Red Hook is bucolic as all get-out but just to drive the point home, walk off your big diner breakfast at Tivoli Bays, where Red Hook meets the Hudson. The trails wind lazily through the woods, past the impressive ruins of a massive barn, and down a hill to a marshy dock on the bay. Watching the tides roll away beneath shade oaks or setting off in a kayak through the lily pads is a wonderfully relaxing way to spend the afternoon.

holycowinterior
Holy Cow
Is it time for some homemade ice cream? You know it is. Like the diner, Holy Cow is a local celebrity business. The line is long but the ladies behind the counter are experts at sweetly handing over the treats each person craves. There’s something for everyone, from amazing ice cream flavors, frozen yogurt, sundaes and shakes to cookie sandwiches, cakes, frozen bananas and the messy scoop of ice cream in a cupcake wrapper known as an “udder.” The other unspoken tradition of Holy Cow is that nearly everyone eats at the nearby picnic tables or in the parking lot, where you can make a new friend or meet the whole town. 

Rusty’s Farm Fresh Eatery
For lunch, head to Rusty’s, where you’ll find great, inventive offerings of all types made with ingredients as local as they come. In the summer, meals are made with produce from the community garden across the street and the flower boxes right out front. The freshness of the ingredients will assuage any guilty feelings about ordering one of the amazing topping-loaded specialty burgers. We’re not sure what’s in the “Rusty’s sauce” but we know we want it on everything.

Kaatsbaan International Dance Center
Tucked away down a winding drive by the river in Tivoli is the much renowned Kaatsbaan Dance Center, located on a 153-acre historic site (the former estate of Eleanor Roosevelt’s grandparents). The dance center’s mission is to provide an inspiring yet affordable year-round home for dancers, choreographers and companies to practice, grow, create, inspire one another and perform. For dance audiences, it’s a hidden jewel that presents national and international dance companies in its 160-seat studio theater, providing an intimate dance experience.

Apple Blossom Day
More than most locales, Red Hook is a truly engaged community. No matter where you go in town, you’ll see families engaged in activities at the library or one of the many parks. Nothing brings the entire town together quite like Apple Blossom Day, coming up soon on May 10. This full-day festival takes over every shop and restaurant as the village welcomes spring, and it reminds everyone of the town’s agricultural roots. What better to rally around than those beautiful buds, with their promise of things to come.

Greig Farms
Greig Farms, set equidistant between the two villages, is emblematic of the tight relationship between Red Hook’s community and its farms. The lower level of the main barn houses the town’s vibrant farmers’ market. Backed by a live jazz band, you can shop for local produce, meats, cheeses and artisanal foods that are some of the best in the Hudson Valley (which then, logically, makes them some of the best products on the face of the earth).

mercatoMercato & Luna 61
World-class local ingredients translate directly into world-class fine dining. While there’s a plethora of amazing restaurants in town, the refined Italian-modern delicacies served at Mercato make for a transformational experience. Tucked into a humble residential façade, Mercato serves patrons with the refinement, skill and essence of the best metropolitan restaurants… but this food is sourced from farms within walking distance. And if you’re a vegetarian, a vegan, gluten free or if you just want a sophisticated yet totally meat-free meal, go to Luna 61 in Tivoli. This is one of those places where, crazy as it sounds to some carnivores, you just don’t miss the meat. The dishes produced are such high quality and spiced so expertly, you’ll be addicted after the first bite.

Bard College & The Fisher Center
Bard College, which is ranked as one of the best schools and one of the most beautiful campuses in the country, is a mecca of culture both during the school year — hosting popular and important writers, thinkers and artists — as well as during the summer months when it is home to the Bard Music Festival (this year celebrating Schubert from August 8-17) and Bard SummerScape (running June 27-August 17) with most performances taking place in the breathtaking Frank Gehry-designed Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts. 

swanThe Black Swan
Your day’s wrapping up and by now you’ve eaten four or five times and done a lot of walking around. It’s time to reward yourself for your good works with a nightcap and some bad behavior. The Black Swan in Tivoli is an icon of the area’s less reserved predilections. A cross between a dive and an historic pub, the Black Swan is the type of local bar that you don’t see much anymore. It’s a charming place to have one too many. Get a ride and enjoy yourself with all the friends you made.

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 04/27/14 at 04:06 PM • Permalink

Lost And Found: Forgotten Amusement Parks Of The Hudson Valley

Carousel at Kinderhook Lake’s Electric Park

By Amy Krzanik

Don your finest bonnet and gather up the children, because it’s 1920 and we’re boarding the train for Electric Park in Kinderhook. Or perhaps you’d prefer we take the steamship up the Hudson River to Woodcliff Pleasure Park in Poughkeepsie? Either way, we’re in for a treat.

Beginning in the early 1900s, weekend steamship voyages and electric trolley trips from New York City up the Hudson Valley corridor became more popular than ever. As factory jobs usurped farming as an occupation, many families moved to New York City for work. But during the steamy summer months, the city’s denizens would escape tenement life and travel upstate to a string of popular amusement parks, including Kinderhook Electric Park at Kinderhook Lake and Woodcliff Pleasure Park which was located on what is now the athletic fields and dormitory of Marist College, among others.

Construction of the Blue Streak roller coaster at Woodcliff Pleasure Park in Poughkeepsie

These forgotten landmarks will be explored on Wednesday, April 30 at 6 p.m., when authors and historians Wes and Barbara Gottlock present an illustrated talk based on their book Lost Amusement Parks of the Hudson Valley at the Rhinebeck Antique Emporium.

During their heyday, “Hordes of people were coming up from the city, up to 100,000 every weekend,” says Wes Gottlock. Dressed in their Sunday best, the throngs would come to relax by the lake, picnic under tents or go for a swim. The more daring could ride the wooden roller coasters, go for a whirl on the electric or steam-powered ferris wheels or take a trip on what were the precursors to log flume rides. Other types of entertainment included “refined” vaudeville acts (a.k.a. “family friendly” performances), ballroom dancing, athletic events, fireworks and games, carousels and petting zoos for the kids.

Though souvenirs, including advertisements, postcards, photographs and other ephemera from the long-gone parks are difficult to find, the Gottlocks have collected around 60 or 70 images in their book, some of which are shown here and many more of which will be exhibited at the lecture.

Rhinebeck Antique Emporium
“Lost Amusement Parks of the Hudson Valley” lecture on Wednesday, April 30 at 6 p.m.
5229 Albany Post Rd. (Route 9)
Staatsburg, NY
(845) 889-4462

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 04/21/14 at 08:41 PM • Permalink

10 Things to Love About Salisbury

By Nichole Dupont

Connecticut’s Northwest Corner has long enjoyed a reputation for the finer things that the region has to offer. Quirky restaurants, unique retail shops (including fabulous bookstores) and a thriving antiques culture make the area a hotspot – literally – for a spring drive into the cultivated country. Salisbury is no exception. The historic village is a quaint hub at the crossroads of routes 41 and 44, where the possibility of spotting a beloved celebrity (think Meryl Streep, Martha Stewart, designer Bunny Williams) goes with the territory of good coffee and prime real estate.

1. The drive: My drive to Salisbury involves a winding, scenic trek south on route 41, which, if you like old barns and farmhouses, is a feast for the eyes. (You may find yourself making several picture stops along the way so be sure to look behind you before you pull off into the pucker brush because tailgating is a norm on this stretch of road.) While some of these structures have the decay reminiscent of an abandoned road in Vermont, most are well kept and still in use. This is evident by the foggy silhouettes of modern tractors in the distant fields as well as the freshly whitewashed homes. And the critters – a herd of scraggy Scottish highlands, a smattering of sheep, noble equines – that line the entry route.

2. Speaking of equines: Salisbury is home to some beautiful horses and horse country, and it is rare to drive for more than a few miles without encountering an equine or two munching on some spring greens (a.k.a. grass) if the weather suits them. Of course, where there are horses, there is serious horse business. Riga Meadows Equestrian Center on Route 41 (or Undermountain Road) and Weatogue Stables both boast state-of-the-art stalls, show rings, lessons and equestrian clinics for horse enthusiasts of all levels, even if you just like to watch from the ground on a summer’s day.

3. The Country Bistro: This little gem is exactly what its name entails. The Country Bistro is tucked away just behind the village’s main drag and is an unassuming, low-ceilinged eatery (with outdoor seating when the wind isn’t gusting at 40 mph) that understands the joie of good food. They serve breakfast and lunch all week and dinner Friday through Sunday, with a menu that highlights authentic French details – shirred eggs, creamery butter, herbed popovers, fragrant coffee, lemon-tarragon dressing and, of course, greens at the end of everything.

4. Everything, in general: Salisbury, even on a Saturday afternoon, can seem a bit sleepy depending on the season. People take their time here. There’s really no rush, and that’s a good thing, especially once you step into the Salisbury General Store and Pharmacy. The vintage Ex-Lax thermometer at the entrance to the store is more of a welcome sign than a deterrent to this unofficial town hub that has been in business since 1935. Prepare to get lost; lost in thought, lost in nostalgia, lost in minutia perusing through the shelves and tables of artisan pottery, Roger and Galet bath products (an olfactory trip down memory lane), retro-style linens, quirky Steampunk cards, homeopathic remedies, homemade lemon curd… you name it, they’ve got it. 

5. How fair thou art: Salisbury folks and visitors take their flora very seriously. On any given day in any given season even a casual courtyard could grace the cover of a Martha Stewart magazine. Fortunately, the hunt for flowers and fresh produce is never fruitless. The town is ripe for the picking with major outfits such as the Salisbury Garden Center on Route 44 as well as (heavenly smelling) boutique shops like the Thornhill Flower and Garden Shop. And don’t rule out quick stop country charm; Weatogue Farm (at 78 Weatogue Road) has a self-serve stand that offers flowers, produce and seasonal goodies from May to November. They also have adorable critters roaming around who don’t mind being photographed we’re told.

6. Hitting the trails: For all of its refined New England charm, with a dash of Nantucket thrown in for good measure (and a prep school), Salisbury has a hard core hiking community blessed with some beautiful vistas and diverse trails. The Undermountain Trail is the main artery through which most hikers pass to reach the summit of Bear Mountain, the cool slick of Sage’s Ravine or to connect to the Appalachian Trail. If you prefer not to hike solo, Peter Becks Village Store on Main Street coordinates a weekly hiking expedition for interested trekkers who want to see a bird’s-eye view of the village.

7. Scoville Memorial Library:  To say that the exterior of the Scoville Library is dour is both generous and an understatement. The Gilded Age monolith (that has since been added to) is constructed from native granite and comes complete with a tower clock which faithfully marks the quarter hours. The interior of the library is a gorgeous monument to the era, complete with vaulted ceilings, arched windows and secret stairwells. The library also boasts a healthy events calendar for patrons of all ages and has 30,000 items within its holdings, not to mention a 15th-century stone carving, sent from England’s Salisbury Cathedral that sits over the fireplace at the far end of the reading room.

8. Getting baked: The whole main street smells. It’s a familiar smell and at the source is freshly baked bread. And cupcakes. And coffee. It hardly seems fair that even on a rainy, wind-driven day the pied carb piper of Salisbury is calling and you must follow him into Salisbury Breads, where fresh-baked baguettes, croissants and sticky buns await. Of course, the moment you step out of the bread store teaming with guilt, they will just be putting the final dollop of chocolate frosting on a sheet of cupcakes at Sweet William’s Bakery right next door. Resistance is futile. And the espresso is nice and hot.

9. The jumps: It’s almost too painful to mention this, but it must be done: the ski jumps. Every year, Salisbury goes out of its way (thanks to the town’s winter sports association) to make the February ski jump championships an extravaganza of winter fun. Of course, the main attraction is watching the athletes whiz down the tower, but ice sculptures, chili contests and a magical winter ball don’t hurt either.

10. Homes, sweet homes: “God, I’d love to have a house here.” This is not an uncommon whisper on a drive through town. Just on Main Street alone, several architectural styles – Federal, Gilded Age, Arts and Crafts, Victorian, Farmhouse – coexist graciously side by side as if they were meant to be together. The Town Hall hardly has the economic austerity of small town New England, yet there it sits, just down the street from the Ragamont House, an old Grecian revival set back from the street and bursting with antique charm. Further up the road sits a 1920s “villa” that could’ve very well been occupied by Gatsby himself. But if you don’t believe me, ol’ sport, take a house tour, and see for yourself. 

 

 

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Posted by Nichole on 04/07/14 at 12:52 PM • Permalink

10 Things To Love About Chatham

By Tresca Weinstein

Mix Williamsburg hip with Williamstown charm, add a generous seasoning of down-to-earth heart, and you get Chatham, New York — living proof that good things come in small villages.

1. Breakfast: It’s the most important meal of the day, and in Chatham, you can get it any way you want it — from gluten free to over easy to half-caff with soy milk. Grab a classic bagel at the Bagel Café or a wheatless one at the Gluten Free Bakery; sip a mug of tea paired with a slice of frittata at the elegant BenGable Savories [shown right]; feast on griddled breakfast bread with cinnamon butter at Our Daily Bread Deli; or wake up with a really good cup of joe at Ralph’s Pretty Good Café.

2. The Chatham Fair: Officially, it’s the Columbia County Fair, but nobody calls it that. Since 1852, when the Fair netted $12.90 in its first year in Chatham, it’s been the stuff of kids’ wintertime dreams and grown-ups’ sugar-dusted nostalgia. From calves and cupcake contests to fireworks to fried dough, this Labor Day weekend fair is a hot, greasy, muddy, wonderful way to say goodbye to summer.

3. The Crandell Theatre: Built in 1926, the 534-seat, Spanish Renaissance-style theater was owned by the Quirino family for 50 years, until it was purchased by the Chatham Film Club in 2010 — with generous support from the community. Now the Crandell is home not only to the cheapest first-run movies you can find just about anywhere ($5 for adults, $4 for kids), but also to the club’s monthly Sunday-afternoon independent film screenings and to FilmColumbia, an international film festival that celebrates its 15th anniversary in October.

4. Getting fit: There are almost as many places in Chatham to work off your breakfast as there are to eat it, including Chatham Body Works, Govinda Yoga Studio, Ida Drake’s Zumba classes at the Morris Memorial, and The Firm, where proprietor Jennifer Lawrence makes step aerobics a blast.

5. Dance and Theater: From classic musicals performed in the round at the Mac-Haydn and world-class dance under the tent at PS21 [shown right], to community theater at the Ghent Playhouse just down Route 66, Chatham holds its own under the spotlights.

6. The Pub Scene: Okay, so there’s really only one pub in Chatham, the Peint O Grwr on Main Street, whose unpronounceable name just makes it that much cooler. But oh, what a pub it is, with a large selection of ales on tap, great snacks, open mic nights and local bands. Stretch the definition of “pub” a bit and you can include the Blue Plate restaurant and bar just around the corner, where you might find pianist Lincoln Mayorga tickling the keys on a weeknight.

7. Nature: Thanks to the Columbia Land Conservancy, which works with the community to preserve the county’s farmland, forests, wildlife habitat and rural character, there are some gorgeous and well-maintained hiking areas within the village or a short drive outside of it. Borden’s Pond is now just a wetland, but the area still offers forest and streamside hikes with seasonal views of the Catskills. The three miles of trails at Ooms Conservation Area [shown left] wind around Sutherland Pond, traveling through woods, over streams, and up sun-drenched hilltops.

8. The Chatham Public Library: Sure, lots of libraries have preschool story hours. But how many (in towns this small) have Mah Jongg Mondays? Or contemporary art discussion groups? Or great performers like The Storycrafters and local actor/director Kate Gulliver? Plus, they don’t charge overdue fines.

9. Local Produce: Chatham knows good veggies. You’ll find them all summer at Chatham Real Food Market’s Friday-afternoon farmers’ market, where area farms like Little Seed Gardens bring their wares. But the coming of winter doesn’t stop Joe Gilbert at the Berry Farm [shown right] from growing some of the most beautiful Swiss chard you’ve ever seen (organic, of course). While you’re in grocery-shopping mode, stop by the Main Street Grainery, offering natural foods and specialty items.

10. Everybody knows your name: Every town has its own ineffable personality; in Chatham, that’s defined by the sense of community. Step into any of the places mentioned above, and you’ll meet someone you’ve known for years but haven’t seen for months, or someone who went to high school with your kid, or someone you went to high school with, or a new arrival who doesn’t feel new, or your best friend. There are people who would find this claustrophobic. But for most of us, it’s the main reason we’re here.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 03/18/14 at 11:47 AM • Permalink