Seeking a bicentennial bounce
94 events to celebrate Sullivans birthday
By FRITZ MAYER
SULLIVAN COUNTY, NY Everyone who knows anything about Sullivan County knows that it once thrived with thousands of hotels, hosting guests from the sweltering city in the summer. But there is much more to the county than that. It once had a thriving tanning industry. It once had more chickens per capita than any other county in the state. It once hosted a man-made canal that was built to carry coal from Honesdale, PA to Kingston, and then on to New York City. It was one of the birthplaces of the film industry, with silent movie stars such as Lillian Gish making movies here. And then, of course, there is Woodstock.
Businesses, municipalities and community organizations will exploit the rich history of the county this summer with a lengthy series of events tied to the 200th birthday of Sullivan County. The events will begin on March 27. Alexis Eggelton, the legislative aid for the county legislature, was the person most responsible for pulling everything together. She explained the kick-off activities.
The county was incorporated on March 27, 1809, so there will be a historical re-enactment of the signing of the county charter at the government center on March 27, and also at that time the county will unveil the new county logo, she said. See page 22 for details.
That evening there will be Bicentennial Gala with a four-course sit-down dinner at the Villa Roma Resort and Conference Center in the Town of Callicoon. In choosing the location, Eggleton said, We were thinking about rebirth and the next 200 years in the county and it seemed like there was no better place. The main building of the Villa Roma re-opened last year after being completely destroyed by fire in 2006. There will be music and other entertainment related to the bicentennial, and the county expects to have 400 guests at the affair.
But thats just the first day. Beginning in May, the events start rolling out for summer. Some events happen every year in the county, but this year will adopt bicentennial elements or themes. Other events are being planned specifically for this year, such as a Day on the Lake event in Lake Huntington, which will feature a boat regatta on the lake, recalling summers past, when there were so many pleasure boats on the water it was said you could walk from one shore to the other without getting your feet wet.
Some organizations, such as the Forestburgh Playhouse, are tailoring the seasons activities to the bicentennial. The playhouse will present Wish You Were Here, which is the original Dirty Dancing, and which the theater describes as a madcap musical trip back to the golden era of the Catskills at Kamp Karefree.
For a list of all the events, go to www.scva.net and click on the bicentennial logo.
The purpose of the events, of course, is not only to celebrate the history of the county but also to help attract visitors to the county and help boost the fortunes of the tourism industry here. With the economy in a historically precarious position, some might be concerned that the summer season will be a bust this year. Not Roberta Byron-Lockwood, the president and CEO of the Sullivan County Visitors Association, and a member of the bicentennial committee.
Byron-Lockwood said of the coming season, People are not going to give up their vacations, theyre not going to give up their leisure down time no matter what. I think our location, being so close to a large metropolitan area, can draw a great many repeat visitors throughout the season at very affordable prices. The bicentennial is another element that will keep people coming, and its also the 4oth anniversary of Woodstock, so I am confident about the season.
Glenn Pontier, also a member of the committee, thinks the bicentennial events may not lure great numbers of tourists who have never heard of the county, but people who have a past association with this place may want to return. He said, So if you worked in the hotel industry, or you vacationed here, or you were a camper, or youve got friends who are here, or you hunted or fished, and you hear about this, I think that those people might say, remember that camp, remember Woodstock? Theyve got something going on up there; lets go check it out.