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October 24, 2016
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Festivals and battles and tours—oh my!

Roan Gillingham (right) and friend brought history to life during the re-enactment of scenes from the Battle of Minisink at Minisink Ford, NY at a commemorative event last weekend.

This past week turned out to be educational, informative and entertaining as I careened through the Upper Delaware valley discovering something old and something new (thankfully, borrowed and blue were nowhere to be seen). Although it’s frightening to conceive, the 1990s are already considered something old, and my iffy memory of the “Eco Boomer” generation was put to the test at the Summerland Tour ( on Friday, as Marcy Playground (“Sex and Candy”), Lit (“My own Worst Enemy”), the Gin Blossoms (“Hey, Jealousy”), Sugar Ray (“Every Morning”) and headliners Everclear (“Father of Mine”) took to the stage for more than a couple of hours, belting out their hits for a crowd that spilled out of the pavilion and onto the lawn.

Of the five bands that performed, there were clearly fans of each in the house, but (IMHO) Sugar Ray was the obvious favorite. With their roots based in “alternative metal” rock form, Sugar Ray morphed over the years into a more palatable sound, and the band found its groove, but the road has been considered “rocky” by virtue of low album sales and few bona fide hits. That said, their performance was electric, the vocals appealing and I found myself a (Johnny come lately) convert before the end of the night. Plans for a new album are in the works, and it’s likely that their 2009 release “Music for Cougars” will be eclipsed by the fresher material.

Long associated with Sugar Ray, on again/off again lead singer Mark McGrath, who has also served as co-host of television’s “Extra” and “Don’t forget the Lyrics!” in past seasons, is an obvious choice to be emceeing the Summerland Tour, and did a swell job of working the crowd in between each act. McGrath has a cross-platform expertise that comes in handy for this tour, and his charming demeanor also serves him well.

With one history lesson under my belt, I fastened in and took the scenic route along the Delaware, through Barryville, NY to take a seat with friends, neighbors and countrymen at the Minisink Battleground Park, as Sullivan County historian John Conway joined antique munitions expert Tony Domingo and costumed re-enactors Kai Moessle and Jim Macarille in a presentation describing the battle in vivid detail. Fought at Minisink Ford on July 22, 1779, the battle of Minisink was the only major skirmish fought in the northern Delaware Valley, and was a “decisive British victory, as the colonial militia was hastily assembled, ill-equipped and inexperienced” ( Prior to the annual ceremony of prayer and dedications held on site, the lecture and Q & A session that followed included hands-on artifact display, and included some fascinating weapons demonstrations by Domingo. Barryville’s Debra Conway and Livingston Manor’s Iris Gillingham participated in the re-enacting portion of the ceremony, joined by a dozen or so others, including several kids and young adults, who really helped make the entire story come alive.

I spent a few hours at the park, and was awestruck by its beauty (had never been before). Chatting with the Conways, I couldn’t help but remark on that, and the sheer delight that I feel when discovering yet another incredible gem here in the neighborhood that may be old to many, but is “something new” for others like me. As I made my way home I debated with myself over the pros and cons of taking Dharma (the wonder dog) along for the ride over to Narrowsburg for perennial favorite RiverFest. She cocked her head and chided me, reminding me that there would be (as always) a canine parade and that her presence would be sorely missed. Feeling properly chastised, I scooped her up and off we went. While it could be perceived as slightly biased (The River Reporter calls Narrowsburg home), my love affair with this picturesque, historical town (and festival) is genuine. Main Street was decked out in all its glory, and teeming with activity.

Vendors’ tents lined both sides of the street, and local artists, authors and crafts people displayed their wares as music filled the air. Excitement mounted (as it always does) in anticipation of the Delaware Valley Arts Alliance’s ( annual RiverFest poster auction. Dozens of entries covered a wide range of artistic expression, and the bidding hands flew up throughout the auction, raising much-needed funds for the DVAA. For more photos of RiverFest, see page 20, and for further details, see Narrowsburg News on page 9.

This tradition grows in popularity every year, and it was swell to see the community out in full force, celebrating together in a convivial manner that causes me to rejoice once more, loving the spirit of the country life that has come to mean so much, to so many. The daily battles that sometimes arise, even here in the mountains, fade away as I reflect on how rich our lives are and how much remains to be learned. I know that many of our friends and neighbors join me in thanks, as I attempt to express my gratitude for the many that serve our community with these lessons, historical, musical and otherwise.