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Who Doesn’t Love An Ice Cream Social?

SoCo Creamery, the handcrafted, micro-batch ice cream company started in 1989 by Danny Mazursky and his family, has frequently introduced seasonal flavors (you may have tasted fall’s Pumpkin Chocolate Chip or the holiday-inspired Gingerbread). But lately, the Great Barrington-based ice cream maker has been partnering with local taste purveyors for inspiration, and you’re invited to try out the new flavors at an ice cream social on Saturday, Aug. 8 at the Great Barrington Bandstand behind the Town Hall.

Making their debuts will be Windy Hill Farm Blueberry, Taft Farms Harvest Mint Chip and No. Six Depot Heart of Darkness. Ice cream cones will be sold for a $1 each, with all proceeds going to the Great Barrington Historical Society.

The intent, says SoCo President Erik Bruun, is to reintroduce SoCo as the natural ice cream that really reflects the values of New England, and to let people know that the company has dropped corn syrup and carageenan (an emulsifier that’s banned in the European Union) from its ingredient mix.  “We look for purveyors of similarly high qualities who can offer something that makes for good ice cream.”

These new seasonal flavors (as well as the outgoing No. Six Depot Bali Blue Moon, Home Sweet Home Cinnamon Doughnut and Sweet Brook Farm Maple Bacon, which will be available at the event) offer a taste tour of the Berkshires, but they’ll all be in one place. At $1 per cone, you can try as many as you like, and help the Historical Society with each one. The Lucky Five Jazz Band will provide the musical licks.

SoCo Ice Cream Social
Saturday, Aug. 8, 2-5 p.m.
Great Barrington, MA Bandstand at the Town Hall

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Posted by Lisa Green on 08/03/15 at 03:12 PM • Permalink

Kent Presents: An Ideas Festival About What Comes Next

Speakers include Jeffrey Toobin, Henry Kissinger, Mia Farrow, Soledad O’Brien, Siddhartha Mukherjee and Paul Krugman. Photo of Krugman: Frank R. Conrad, The New York Times.

By Jamie Larson

It is impossible to overstate the caliber of speakers, the depth of knowledge or the collective value of experience planned for display at the inaugural Kent Presents ideas festival, August 13th – 15th at the Kent School. Thanks to the philanthropic vision and deep personal rolodex of laudable locals Benjamin and Donna Rosen, the beautiful small town of Kent, Connecticut will host some of the greatest minds of our time as they speak on the conference’s heady theme—“What Comes Next?”

With the humble intent of increasing interest in their town and supporting local charities, the Rosens have put together a conference of 70 diverse speakers that include Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, economist Paul Krugman and director of the National Cancer Institute Harold Varmus, all three of whom happen to be Nobel Prize winners. The schedule includes presentations from experts in science, public policy, business and technology including Pulitzer Prize-winning doctor and author Siddhartha Mukherjee, president of the World Monuments Fund Bonnie Burnham, Bloomberg Finance executive editor Christine Harper, New York Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, director of the Iran Project and former ambassador William Luers and many more.

“They’re coming to a village they’ve never heard of for an event that never existed before,” Donna Rosen says with a laugh. “We hope to establish Kent and Litchfield County as a center for intellectual thought.”

The Rosens [photo, right] were able to manifest this laudable event out of thin air due to the connections they’ve cultivated during a lifetime spent in the upper echelons of business, policy, philanthropy and the arts. Benjamin Rosen is a former venture capitalist, chairman emeritus of Compaq Computer, chairman emeritus and current life trustee of the California Institute of Technology and currently on the boards of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (emeritus) and the New York Philharmonic (emeritus). He is also a former Met Opera board member and Columbia Business School board chairman. Donna Rosen was a longtime contemporary art gallery owner in New Orleans, and is now active in philanthropy and the visual arts, and is a board member of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New Orleans Museum of Art, and American Friends of the British Museum.

With Mrs. Rosen’s connection to the art world, it’s no surprise the Kent Presents lineup also boasts many notables from the world of arts and media including actress and activist Mia Farrow, CNN journalist and author Fareed Zakaria, Tony-winning Broadway director Richard Maltby Jr., artist Xaviera Simmons, journalist Soledad O’Brien… the list goes on and on.

“We are fortunate to have great friends involved in many facets of life,” Rosen says. That’s a bit of an understatement.

It’s almost hard to parse the scale of Kent Presents with its casual catalyst. Last August, the Rosens were having a conversation with some friends about the Aspen Ideas Festival and how great it would be to have a similar event in Kent, close to New York City but also surrounded by a beautiful landscape.

“Ben said it would be a good project for him since he doesn’t play golf anymore,” says Rosen. “So we founded the non-profit to support local charities and asked (Kent School headmaster Richardson Schell) if we could use the school as a venue and he graciously opened his doors to us. We sent emails to various friends of ours and, to our delight, many said yes.”

Unfortunately, the nearly $2,000 passes to Kent Presents are all but sold out, with a number of seats having been comped to local residents so that the event could be diverse and accessible. The Rosens are pleased and encouraged by the interest and are already looking forward to next year when they may need to expand.

Though only in their start-up year, without any sponsors, Rosen expects to raise a six-figure amount for the local charities selected at a later date by a committee of local residents, not including the Rosens. 

Kent Presents
Thursday, August 13—Saturday, August 15
On the grounds of the Kent School in Kent, CT

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 07/20/15 at 09:37 AM • Permalink

Slideshow + Potluck = Slideluck, A Community Happening

Casey Kelbaugh at a recent Slideluck in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Photo by John Mazlish.

By Lisa Green

Slideluck, a non-profit organization dedicated to building and strengthening community through food and art, has had a presence in cities throughout the world, but it’s making its first stop in the Berkshires next week, and you’re invited. The event is being hosted by The Barn Gallery at Stonover Farm Bed and Breakfast in Lenox on Thursday, July 16, with the potluck starting at 6:30 p.m. and the slideshow at 8:30 p.m.

Part slideshow, part potluck, Slideluck was the brainchild of photographer Casey Kelbaugh, who hosted the first event in his Seattle backyard in 2000. The idea was to bring artists out of their studios and show their work via slideshow to the community, with potluck meals provided by the guests. Since then, more than 100 cities worldwide have hosted Slideluck events and presented the work of about 10,000 artists.

Each community sets up its own event, backed by the sizable staff of Slideluck, now based in New York City. And while most of the Slidelucks occur in metropolitan areas, Kelbaugh is excited to bring the concept to a rural setting. He’s known the Werman family, owners of Stonover Farm, for years, and they’ve talked about a collaboration for a long time. Suky Werman, who curates The Barn Gallery, was aware of Slideluck — her kids had attended a few of them in Brooklyn — so she was familiar with the concept and always had it in the back of her mind for The Barn Gallery to host.

“Last year we came relatively close, but Suky wasn’t ready, so we decided to plan it out,” Kelbaugh says. “The property is the perfect location — the idea of doing it with a big open barn is so exciting.” Since the first event 15 years ago, Slidelucks have expanded beyond a backyard-type venue, Kelbaugh says, but there’s still an authenticity each time. “We’ve worked hard to keep the community barbecue feeling.”

Werman, who has long been affiliated with IS183 Art School of the Berkshires (she’s currently on the board), sees the event as a way to draw a wider crowd to the art experience. Yes, it’s a way to broaden the community who comes to see work at The Barn Gallery, but the combination of food and slideshow will also, she thinks, attract a more multigenerational crowd. She’s curated the show of more than 20 artists (local and otherwise) from a range of media – photography, painting, ceramics, textiles. Their work will be available in the Gallery, and a portion of each sale will be donated to IS183.

The Slideluck organization sends out a team to help produce the event, with sponsors Brooklyn Brewery and Souverain wine supplying the beverages. Think Tanglewood picnic: come prepared to spread out on the lawn to both eat and watch the slideshow, which will be projected on the barn exterior (in case of inclement weather, the event will be moved inside). What to bring? Keep the Cheetos at home, please, and consider supplying an appetizer, salad, main course or dessert to share with some portion of the crowd. Werman is hoping for a gathering of 150-170 people. Although it’s always tough to anticipate the participation, Kelbaugh says it always works out.

Come for the feast, stay for the show. It just may be the event of Summer ‘15.

Slideluck Berkshires
Thursday, July 16, 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
The Barn Gallery, Lenox

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Posted by Lisa Green on 07/05/15 at 11:17 AM • Permalink

Hudson River Exchange: An Event Of Art And Community

HRX VendorBy Jamie Larson

Mixing expertly crafted style with meaningful community engagement, the third annual Hudson River Exchange Summer Market, to be held at the Hudson Riverfront Park on June 27 and 28, will once again showcase artisan makers and collectors in a “curated marketplace.”

The Hudson River Exchange (HRE) is a uniquely rewarding event because it not only gives visitors access to some of the most beautiful and thoughtfully made products being produced here and around the country, it also provides a hub for craftspeople to showcase their work and grow their unique small-scale businesses. Whether it’s handmade clothing, jewelry, artwork, beauty and apothecary items, antique objects, woodwork or other crafts, the Exchange is as much about creating a valuable experience for the sellers as for the shoppers.

HRX Wide View“The HRE has helped me build a local customer base, which has greatly contributed to the growth of my handmade business,” says Silke Jacobs. “HRE is an innovative, positive force in our community that has changed the game for creative business owners in and around Hudson.”

Sellers can become members of the exchange and workshops, and networking is available to artisans, who often work in seclusion. A full list of vendors is available on the HRE website, but the best way to discover something you didn’t know you needed but can’t live without is to simply walk the tents, which are often beautiful displays in their own right.

“The quality keeps going up each year,” says Exchange co-founder Kate Moore. “Now our mission is evolving. We’ll be launching workshops and services for these amazing small businesses.”

HRX CardsThe level of taste, quality and craftsmanship at the Exchange is second to none. Assembling the event is a lot of work for the small organizational staff. Their first event was supposed to be a one-off, Moore says, but an extremely positive response from visitors and vendors inspired them to continue. Now the Summer Market is the flagship event for a growing operation that includes pop-up events, collaborations with CSA fairs and the successful Basilica Farm and Flea event each Thanksgiving weekend.

HRX Catskill Mill Food Truck“One of the reasons we wanted to continue is we saw that artistic people needed a market to sell this beautiful work,” Moore says, adding that they’re showcasing work indicative of an artistic, artisanal lifestyle, not just creations from the Hudson Valley. “We continue to have a strong relationship with local vendors coming from out of town and out of state.”

Free to the public, the event will also include food and drink from chefs including Brooklyn Oyster Party, Catskill Mill Food Truck, Raven and Boar, and a Saturday night bar courtesy of Fish and Game.

Hudson River Exchange Summer Market
Saturday, June 27, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.; Sunday, June 28, 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Henry Hudson Riverfront Park, Hudson, NY

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 06/16/15 at 12:28 PM • Permalink

10 Things To Love About Hudson

By Paige Darrah

“I like that it’s somewhat of a transient town, a place where a lot of interesting bands and writers pass through. I’ve heard people say, “If you don’t like Hudson, wait a day.” —Chloe Caldwell

From an industrial whaling port to a den of vices to an enclave for country urbanites and Brooklyn* expats, upstate’s hippest town, situated between the Berkshires and the Catskills, has something for (almost) everyone.
* Hudsonians cringe when their hamlet is compared to Brooklyn.

1.) Spotty Dog Books & Ale An independent bookshop/literary café/bar, Hudson’s former firehouse is frequented by salty locals, including one dude who walks an imaginary dog on an unimaginary leash. Grab a glass of Sancerre or a local craft beer to sip on as you browse the 10,000 carefully curated titles. The back room is full of art supplies, Japanese mechanical pencils, and fun literary curios like matchbox libraries of banned books and Goodnight Moon tote bags.


2.) A Guy Named Earl The following is an excerpt from a conversation I had at a party in Millerton, NY last December. “Ah, so you live in Hudson. Do you know Earl?” inquired a fellow partygoer. “Earl? No, I don’t know Earl,” I said. “You live in Hudson and you’ve never heard of Earl?” he said. “I don’t know Earl,” I said. Earl is Hudson’s resident celebrity and is representative of the kind of scrappy, grassroots entrepreneurs and artists that characterize Hudson. He paints cartoonish domestic animals and historical figures on pieces of wood he finds laying around. (I have one of his paintings of a dog in sneakers mowing the lawn.) Many, if not most, of the shops and restaurants on Warren Street display “open” signs they commissioned from Earl. While you can buy his paintings at several galleries and shops in Hudson, you’ll get the best deal at Ryan LaPoint’s sign-less basement shop at 518 Warren Street (it’s called Devil In the Woods) where Earl paintings run $40 to $150.

3.) Hudson Wine Merchants I’m always excited to see Lauren in this intimate wine shop. Lauren is an unlicensed sommelier with a penchant for herringbone jackets (which look smashing on her, by the way) who says things like “the Raventos Cava is drinking really well this season.” If you pop in when owner Michael Albin is there, not only will he hook you up with a peppy new rosé…he’ll throw in a relevant anecdote free of charge. For example, Pomponette — a Provençal rosé that’s drinking really well this season — means something like “drunk girl” in French. Bonus: there’s a basket of vintage toys in the corner to pacify the kids as you hunt for libations to take to the adjacent food truck garden.


4.) Whales Hudson was a whaling town during the 1700s, settled by the whalers who sailed up from Nantucket. So the whale is the town’s unofficial mascot and they’re everywhere. Even the street signs are punctuated with Moby Dick’s smiling silhouette.




5.) Food Trucks Hudson is better with food trucks (every city is better with food trucks). The food truck court’s hibernation ended in April, and it’s an eclectic fleet this year. Longstanding favorites include Taste of India and Once Upon A Taco (try the veggie black bean version). New trucks this year, which Rural Intelligence recently wrote about, include Savory (a deli), and Gracie’s (American fare that’s like state fair food but classier). Hudsonians congregate at the food truck court’s picnic tables on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, lending a lovely block party vibe to Warren Street’s 300 block.


6.) Its History of Vices Hudson has always had an underbelly. For much of the first half of the 20th century, Diamond Street (which has since been renamed Columbia Street) was seething with brothels and gambling dens. The Feds did a late-night raid in the early 1950s, during which they busted several complicit police officers. 

7.) Our New Hogwarts-esque Library It’s slated for completion by the end of 2015 and we’re very excited about this. The current library has some charm to it, sure. But the new facility is going into a very cool old building, the circa 1898 Hudson Armory, with that fabulous tower.






8.) Tommy You need an appointment to procure a mani at Tommy’s Luxury Nail Spa, which seems annoying at first, but then you realize it’s part of the charm. This place is part nail salon, part art gallery (you get to stare at Tommy’s impressive still life paintings and listen to classical music during your pedicure). Tommy’s $20 manicures are the best, longest-lasting manicures I’ve ever had, plus he’s funny. ”Is it just you, Tommy? No other technicians?” I asked. “There aren’t any other Asians in Hudson,” Tommy replied.






Photo by Jeremiah Cox/SubwayNut.com

9.) The Romantically Old-school Amtrak Station Penn Station to Hudson Station in two hours — no changing trains, no taking cabs, no passing Go. The train station itself is sweet, quaint and romantic. The cash-only snack bar is run entirely by volunteers, where you can snag a pre-departure New York Times and a Diet Coke. Its high ceilings and church pews recall the set of a black and white movie.



Photo by Katherine Darling

10.) Moto Coffee Machine (formerly known as Swallow) Made famous by their crumbly, burst-in-your-mouth blueberry scones even Martha Stewart would be proud of, Hudson’s hippest coffee shop relocated and rebranded itself this year. Now it’s called Moto and employs an industrial-chic-meets-grunge vibe. Motorcycle helmets neatly line the cubbies above the sugar and lid station. Owner Aaron Dibben — who is often manning the espresso machine — looks like he went to several Nirvana concerts in the ‘90s. Moto added an artisanal waffle bar starring a French Culinary Institute alum in May 2015, adding a new dimension to a Starbucks-averse town filled with country urbanites.

Other things we love about Hudson, covered by Rural Intelligence over the years:
10 Unusual Gifts You’ll Find Only In Hudson
The Women of Hudson’s 400 Block
Talbott & Arding Cheese And Provisions
The Milliner Guesthouse And Inn
Hudson Basilica Farm & Flea
Shopping for Curiosities
Bonfiglio & Bread
Helsinki Hudson
Finch
Hudson at the Holidays

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Posted by Rachel Louchen on 06/02/15 at 04:44 PM • Permalink

Kent Needle Arts Retreat: Namaste For Knitters

It takes a bit of chutzpah to open a yarn shop when you aren’t a knitter yourself. And it takes something — confidence, talent, drive? — to be able to say that within less than a decade there isn’t anything you can’t knit or teach.

Nancy Hamilton, owner of Black Sheep Yarns in Kent, Connecticut, gets extra bragging rights: her boutique has been awarded the best yarn shop in Connecticut by Connecticut magazine for the past two years. Since she opened the shop six years ago, she’s created a community of knitters there, built a lending library of knitting and crocheting books, teaches freely to anyone who comes to the shop (regardless of where they’ve purchased their materials) and has invited the authors to give master classes.

The success of those classes inspired Hamilton to organize the very first Kent Needle Arts Retreat, to be held the weekend of May 16 and 17 at the Kent Community House. It will be an intensive gathering of knitterati, featuring two full days of classes led by seven nationally known instructors, a dinner and fashion show at the Fife ‘n Drum Restaurant, and a marketplace.

Hamilton, whose background was in sewing, believes that most knitters are stuck at an intermediate level and all that’s needed to set them soaring is inspiration, coupled with expert instruction. To that end, she has invited highly regarded specialists in color, fit (including pattern modification), fashion-forward design, and advanced techniques such as Continental, Scandinavian, Andean, and Fair Isle knitting (aka: “stranded color work”), as well as Celtic cables and Bavarian crochet.

“I tried to create a good mix,” she says. For anyone who is more than ready to include patterns in vivid colors, elaborate cables, or innovative design in their knitting projects, the Kent Needle Arts Retreat is an exceptional opportunity to learn from some of the foremost instructors in the field.

If all goes well, Hamilton anticipates that the retreat will become an annual event, and given her enthusiasm, there’s little doubt she will make it happen. “I am already booking the teachers for next year,” she says.

Kent Needle Arts Retreat
Saturday and Sunday, May 16 and 17, 2015 in Kent, CT
Black Sheep Yarns
12 Old Barn Road, Kent, CT
(860) 927-3808

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Posted by Lisa Green on 04/28/15 at 09:10 PM • Permalink

‘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.”

“Looks Like Laury, Sounds Like Laury” screening
Friday, April 24, 7 p.m.
Scoville Memorial Library, Salisbury, CT

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Posted by Nichole on 04/20/15 at 02:18 PM • Permalink

Silo Ridge In Amenia: A Wealth of Controversy In Development

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.’”

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 03/30/15 at 11:51 AM • Permalink

10 Things To Love About Norfolk

By Rachel Louchen

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

Photo: Bill Keane

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

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

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

Photo: Bob Andelman

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

BerkshireFlirt Helps Turn Singles Into Doubles

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

By Amy Krzanik

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

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

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

Photo courtesy of Marc J. Wrzesinski.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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