Are the stars out tonight?
Gazing skyward over the last week, the heavens alternated between cloudy and bright. In between showers, the sun blazed and people frolicked. Not wanting to be left out in the rain, I packed an umbrella and headed off in search of adventure while keeping one eye on the weather. With the “dog days of summer” right on schedule this past Saturday, the relentless heat ushered in the return of an-all American local favorite: the Jeffersonville Jamboree. Weeks of anticipation and preparation culminated with tremendous success, and the promise of “great food, unique vendors, kids’ activities and exhibits” did not disappoint.
Entertainment provided by blue grass/country faves The Latimer Brothers Band wafted through the air as kids cavorted through the petting zoo and giant inflatables scattered across Lions Field. I chatted with friends and neighbors for hours as folks continued to stream in throughout the afternoon, and despite the broiling heat, the day was a shining example of country livin’ at its best.
Ominous clouds and intermittent rain prevented me from making it to the first annual Monticello Days, but my pals on that end of the county tell me that the afternoon was fun, even without my attendance. Designed to boost awareness of the recently completed beautification program, and boost tourism, the inaugural affair was spearheaded by Les Kristt, who was joined by Sullivan County historian John Conway in promoting the celebration. “This is a rallying cry,” Conway said. “Business owners have decided to band together and reinvent themselves, and Broadway is bigger and better than ever before.” Kristt concurs, saying that “the attitude about Monticello is changing, and that’s probably the biggest thing that’s going to draw people and businesses, that they see us as a family community.” Wouldn’t you know, just as I leave Monticello (I moved a few weeks ago), things are looking up for the historic village. I have always been fond of the place and look forward to the resurgence of its popularity as a destination.
Forced to make decisions, I had to forgo opening night of the Shandelee Music Festival (www.shandelee.org), knowing that there are a few twilight time concerts on the horizon. The roster of international artists is always impressive and the music festival continues to provide enchanting concerts under a blanket of stars. Pianist Magazine has declared Shandelee “one of the finest music festivals in the world” and, (as I recall), I once dubbed it “The Carnegie Hall of the Catskills.” So rest assured, the 2012 Sunset Concert Series is in my future.
The reason that I missed Shandelee is twofold: Huey Lewis and the News and Joe Cocker performing together on Sunday night at Bethel Woods ( www.bethelwoodscen
ter.org ). Lewis opened the show and thousands were instantly transported to the ‘80s and the MTV heyday of this hugely successful pop rock band. Having racked up an impressive string of top-10 singles (19 to be precise) on Billboard’s Hot 100, the singer performed many of his signature songs, including “The Heart of Rock and Roll,” “I Want a New Drug,” “Perfect World” and “The Power of Love,” which was nominated for an Academy Award (“Back to the Future”) in 1986.
With his trusty harmonica momentarily at his side, Huey and Co entertained as only they can. “As is our custom, it’s time to do an a capella song” the crooner shouted to the crowd. “So if you know it, sing along—don’t be shy, Bethel!” Hit after hit washed over the audience, reminding me that this phenomenal group has sold more than 30 million albums worldwide. Intrigued by the pairing of squeaky-clean-cut Lewis on a double bill with the once controversial Cocker, I queried some of the folks in neighboring seats, wondering which performer was the draw for them. “Both,” seemed to be the popular response, and I remembered that Cocker is best known for covering some of the worlds most beloved Beatles tunes.
This concert marks Cocker’s third outing in Sullivan County, the first being a last-minute booking in August of 1969, and he reminisced momentarily, describing the Woodstock Music Festival as being “like an eclipse—a very special day.” Joe’s signature gritty voice has caught up with his age, and even though the man sitting next to me asked if he was 80, I assured him that the singer had just turned 68. That said, Cocker has mellowed a bit and left some of his audacious antics behind, but his voice is still mesmerizing and his rendition of the Billy Preston/Dennis Wilson smash “You Are So Beautiful to Me” was so fraught with emotion, it brought the house to its feet as the last notes climbed toward the stars.
But the stars on stage aren’t the only ones to keep our eyes on. The annual Perseid meteor shower (www.star
date.org/nightsky/meteors) is just around the corner, and in the wee hours of August 12 (between 12 midnight and 5 a.m.) the night will be ablaze with shooting stars. This year, the prediction is awesome, with an expected 100 meteors per hour promised to be streaming through the atmosphere and raining upon us, clear skies permitting.
Considering the intense storms that have recently occurred, I’m keeping my fingers crossed and planning to stay up late on the 11th. As the clock strikes midnight, I’ll be keeping my eyes on the northeast portion of the heavens. If you’ve never experienced the annual wonder, I urge you to take a nap and do so. The Perseids is (IMHO) one of the most magnificent displays Mother Nature provides, and is something everyone should experience. With no effort involved, even I can accomplish this simple goal. All we have to do is look up, make a wish—and gaze at the stars.