Visiting the Wemp Barn of Feura Bush, NY

by Sonja Stark on September 17, 2014

1715 Dutch Barn and Oriskatach

Admittedly, based on my last post, I did not have the greatest taste in television as a child. However, to be fair, if you were raised in the country, required to stack countless cords of wood, feed livestock and pull garden weeds, entertainment (of any kind) would have been preferable. In the 70′s, having dirty hands at age eight from baling hay or strawberry picking was commonplace. Today, it’s nice having a familiarity with local harvesting and an appreciation for well-built barns.

Which brings me to the Oriskatach property in Feura Bush, NY.

Wearing my Sunday best, I was invited to listen to a popular singing troupe perform inside one of the oldest barns in America, circa 1715. I wasn’t there to crank a tractor or rotate an egg incubator but rather enjoy the history of Dutch architecture alongside contemporary choral music.

Amidst clinking glasses of fine wine and fancy suits, I had to marvel at how my being inside a barn, specifically this barn, was infinitely better than the last time I was in a barn.

The New World Dutch structure originally stood in Montgomery County until 1990 when the late (and great) local businessman/philanthropist Carl Touhey had it dismantled and rebuilt next to his stone home.

The sturdy configuration is made of massive posts and beams called the H-frame. Wooden pegs fit like puzzle pieces to secure the timbers and joints together. It’s a true testament to pre-industrial engineering and the skills of those that came to the New World.

1715 Dutch Barn and Oriskatach

1715 Dutch Barn and Oriskatach

1715 Dutch Barn and Oriskatach

To learn more about Dutch Barns, visit http://www.dutchbarns.org/

To enjoy more photos of this unique upstate attraction, go to myFLICKR album.

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Television memories of Peekskill, NY

by Sonja Stark on September 15, 2014

FACTSRemember Mrs. Garrett, Tootie and Blair Warner? I’m dating myself here but the town of Peekskill has always been synonymous with the 80′s sitcom The Facts of Life, a show I watched religiously before my parents pulled the plug so that I’d do my homework. At that age, I thought the show, like many others, was filmed on location.

The all-female boarding school was fictionally set in Westchester County, about 40-miles north from NYC, with recurring roles from a then-young George Clooney and Molly Ringwald. Interracial relationships, abortion, cancer, prostitution, marijuana, sex-ed, tax evasion, suicide – the sitcom taught me far more about life than textbooks did, hence the name of the show.

So, here I am now 30 years later, in Peekskill, NY, on assignment to cover the highlights of my imaginary city – longingly looking for the fictional Eastland and Langley College.

Instead of finding my childhood celebrities though, I discover larger-than-life contemporary art popping up all along the waterfront.

Instead of sticks of taffy at Edna’s Edibles, I sip a pint of harvest ale at a nearby brewery.

And, the hypothetical commuter train that whisked the four Musketeers to NYC on certain episodes? Actually, that’s still there. The MTA Metro-North train line runs along the scenic Hudson equipped with nostalgic bells and loud whistles.

Memories of my adolescence entertainment are still alive and well poking around Peekskill. It shouldn’t feel familiar but it does.

DSC_3893Friends are made five minutes upon pulling up to a bright bar for a light lunch at the popular Peekskill Brewery (also known as PB). I have time only for a plate of hand cut fries but it marries well with a hoppy summer saison called Zizania.

The young tattooed-arm to my left insists that I return and try their housemade sausage made of rabbit and terragon. The birthday boy sitting to my right and his girlfriend (originally from Portland) are buying time before boarding a boat for a Hudson cruise. They too have a passion for Peekskill and list their favorite parks, markets, performing art centers and restaurants like the Birdsall House.

With limited sunlight left to explore, I wrap shooting and jump back on my magic carpet called the Taconic parkway. The route wraps around undulating valleys, under low stone bridges and past sweeping views of the Catskill mountains on the west side of the river.

So, the fact is, Peekskill makes for a perfect day trip from the Capital Region.

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A splash of tourism in Tannersville, NY

by Sonja Stark on September 9, 2014

The dramatic colors splashed throughout Tannersville are the result of the "Paint Program."

The dramatic colors splashed throughout Tannersville are the result of the “Paint Program.”

Many years ago, if you’re like me, you’d drive through the shabby town of Tannersville on your way to ski or hike Hunter Mountain without so much as blinking an eye. Did you ever stop? I didn’t dare. But, today, it’s technicolor economic rebirth is reason enough to showcase to my four guests from Russia on their first day in the United States.

The Catskill region was given the colloquial term of “Borscht Belt” because of the many Ukrainian Jews that would vacation here between the 1920s – 1970s. But, tourism since then has been difficult to sustain. That’s where the Catskill Foundation, local volunteers and Consulting Architect, Lewis Jacobsen come in.

DSC_3980Jacobsen is thrilled with the artistic and aesthetic improvements made to several buildings in the hamlet. He met us early Sunday morning for a tour of the Orpheum Theater, the newly opened American Glory BBQ, the Mountain Market and Bakery, the General Store, among many more restored, rainbow-splashed buildings. Turquoise, marigolds and strawberry reds dress up commercial properties once blighted and/or boarded up.

Jacobsen makes sure to credit local artist Elena Patterson for putting brush to balconies, staircases, garbage cans, shutters, gutters… even rocks, painting vigorously for the last 10-years with volunteer help.

My Russian guests, here on a grant from the U.S. Congress called Open World, agreed it’s almost as colorful as St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow.

Another juicy tidbit of history revealed by Jacobsen: Mark Twain once spent a summer at a rustic camp not far from Tannersville during the Gilded hotel heydays. I wasn’t able to find out anything more than that, but if my readers are familiar with Samuel Clemens, be my guest to comment.

Deer Mountain Inn

Following a fabulous lunch of southern comfort food at American Glory BBQ (just opened on August 27), we were given a tour of Tannerville’s renovated turn-of-century retreat Deer Mountain Inn. The once summer cottage offers 9 charming rooms with antique furnishings, modern bathrooms and luxury linens.

One of the more whimsical rooms is named for the American author and humorist that I just mentioned – Twain.

DSC_4058

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Video: Ziplining Hunter Mountain on Labor Day weekend

by Sonja Stark on September 1, 2014

Nick Johnson, Terrance Collins and John Hamilton, all weekend zip-lining renegades,  use quick wit and slapstick to abate our fears while we soar like eagles at Hunter Mountain.

Nick Johnson, Terrance Collins and John Hamilton, all weekend zip-lining renegades, use quick wit and slapstick to abate our fears while we soar like eagles at Hunter Mountain.

Nick, Terrance and John are the comedy superstars of the zip-lining world. They swing sardonic barbs, jabs and innuendo almost as naturally as a classic episode of The Three Stooges. And, it’s because of their lighthearted banter that Dad dared to try the longest, highest and fastest zip-line in North America this weekend.

Welcome to New York Zipline Adventure Tours at Hunter Mountain. With over 4.6 miles of runs, at nearly 600 feet above the ground, traveling at speeds of up to 50 mph, it’s normal to feel a little trepidation.

There are harnesses to wear and heavy metal trolleys to tote around. There are countless ‘do’s and don’ts’ to remember to avoid injury. There are forms to practice like the cannonball, the office chair, penciling-in and, as I heard someone call it, the ‘giving-birth’ position.

Much like sky-diving, zip-lining requires focus, concentration and a whole lot of passion, especially on a windy day when you may not successfully make it to the landing platform. That’s when the instructors have to reel you in like a fish. I failed to tuck properly on the 2nd trip and Nick, dutifully, had to strap himself to the cable and come rescue me.

The sensation of flying above a canopy of trees engulfed by the scenic Catskill mountains is intense. I dare say you’ll reach a higher level of consciousness from the exhilaration. It’s like donning a pair of wings to your arms and setting yourself free – if only for a few precious seconds. Dad pushed his fear aside upon hearing that a couple in their early 90′s celebrated their anniversary here. He catapulted into thin air with the grace of a soaring eagle, which, along with bears and deer, Hunter Mountain has plenty of.

“Bears are attracted to the color red. That’s why we wear yellow helmets and you all wear red,” cajoled our instructor Terrance. Smiles and snorts from the anxious crowd.

On the 5th zip-line, instructor John pretended to get smacked in the head from my dangling feet while I passed overhead. He had me worried that I knocked him unconscious until I heard the other riders laughing at my gullibility. Such are the quips and jokes that the instructors use to lighten the moment and enjoy the ride.

The three-hour experience is especially unique because two people can zip at once, side-by-side, leaving both to race to the finish or enjoy the views together. Though, I wouldn’t suggest whipping out your cell phone for a photo of each other. One loose grip and there goes your phone to thousands of acres of dense forest on the highest peak in Greene county.

To enjoy the video, CLICK HERE

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The British are coming to Chazy, NY!

by Sonja Stark on August 28, 2014

The owners and caretakers of the historic Alexander Scott home where British leader Sir George Prévost, 1st Baronet, spent the night with his troops camped out on the lawn during the "Second War of Independence" with new America in September 1814.

The owners and caretakers of the historic Alexander Scott home where British leader Sir George Prévost, 1st Baronet, spent the night with his troops camped out on the lawn during the “Second War of Independence” with new America in September 1814.

Labor Day traditionally marks the end of summer but in the town of my alma mater, Plattsburgh, NY, it’s the historic ‘beginning of the end’ of the War of 1812.

The “Second War of Independence” is said to be the war that nobody remembers, not the burning of the White House and Capitol or that Francis Scott Key wrote “The Star Spangled Banner” while watching the bombardment of Fort McHenry by British ships.

But, this weekend and for several days after, several northern New York towns near or along Lake Champlain, will give people a reason not to forget the War of 1812 with re-enactments, demonstrations and Americana activities.

War of 1812 BannerRedcoat re-enactors will start marching Saturday morning from the village of Champlain south along State route 9 into the town of Chazy. Depending on rank, the dress of a soldier will include gray pantaloons or white colonial knickers, royal red plain coats with gold accessories, possibly official scarlet sashes and black boots. Many will be sporting heavy muskets. Others might be playing wooden fifes and snare drums. All will be exhausted if the temperatures soar during the three and half hour march.

Street Banner War of 1812Once in Chazy, the parade will convene on the lawn of the Alexander Scott House where a gathering of military activities will take place. The soldiers will pitch wedge tents, prep fires for cooking and strategize over maps on how to invade Plattsburgh.

All are invited to immerse yourself in the encampment and help the soldiers prepare a proper military camp. Yes, technically, the redcoats were our enemy but this weekend, they are our teachers.

Living history continues the next day with a march into West Chazy followed by activities like wagon rides and boot camp. On Labor Day, Monday morning, the advance takes the British through Beekmantown ending at the American Legion Post in Plattsburgh, NY.

For more information on this historic 200-year commemoration, visit the Plattsburgh 1812 Website: http://champlain1812.com/index.html

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Sampling suds in Vermont breweries

by Sonja Stark on August 25, 2014

Vermont Craft Brewery Tours

With 32 breweries and growing, Vermont brewers are emerging as the most innovative and visionary on the American bar scene. The expansive website by the Vermont Brewers Association attributes the magic of Vermont brewers to “maybe something in the water…or air…or up here in the mountains.”

We picked up our Official Passport, a fun marketing ploy to sample crafts in exchange for a free t-shirt, at breweries aligned with our travels after crossing the Rouses Point bridge and driving south into Bennington, Vermont. Juggling a few nascent hours to hike, eat and sleep, we squeezed in six stops along our journey. Our search got a whole lot easier with the help of Kim Werner’s new guide book called FarmPlate.

14th Star Brewing Company in St. Albans was first on our list but a lousy AT&T connection on my cell phone’s GPS left me without directions. We continued onto Winooski for better coverage.

Vermont Craft Brewery Tours

For lunch, we dined like messy children on steaming hot griddles of homemade mac and cheese at Our House Bistro in Winooski. Surrounded by vintage lunch boxes and retro decor, we sat next to the front window people watching as our favorite comfort food arrived. The Nutty New England mac drizzled with fresh maple syrup was yummy beyond satisfaction but too sweet for George’s liking. He enjoyed extra napkins with his Three Little Pigs Sandwich topped with a fried egg.

Vermont Craft Brewery Tours

With enough food in our stomachs to soak up ABV, we headed to Four Quarters Brewery, a 4-minute walk from the eatery. Formerly, a bio-diesel garage, owners Brian and Jennifer Eckert opened the business less than a year ago and have already overgrown the space.

A scruffy-looking sample bartender, moonlighting from his teaching profession at UVM, was flipping vinyl when we pushed up to the tasting bar. The intimacy allowed us to, literally, turn around and watch the brewing process in progress at the front of the garage. The brewer was experimenting with getting the a watermelon consistency for a pending batch.

Vermont Craft Brewery Tours

Students were returning to area colleges so finding an overnight accommodation was rough.  We skipped over busy Burlington for the woodsy creature comforts of East Middlebury at a historical find called The Waybury Inn. Even better is the connection the beloved Inn has to comedian Bob Newhart. The opening credits of the 80′s sitcom Newhart has a shot of the Waybury Inn portrayed as the Stratford Inn that fictional character Bob Dick Loudon operates with his wife Joanna, played by Mary Frann. I can almost hear the lovely little ditty they used as the music bed in that opening sequence….

Waybury Inn, E. Middlebury, Vermont

Other breweries enjoyed during our 24-hour adventure include Fiddlehead, Otter Creek, Drop-In, Foley Brothers and Madison Brewing. More on those in another blog entry later on this week.

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