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Bagel Festival aims for 15,000

Jeff Siegel unveils what is reportedly the first bagel machine made in the United States, which will be on display at the second annual Bagel Festival in August in Monticello, NY.
TRR photo by Fritz Mayer

By Fritz Mayer
April 16, 2014

MONTICELLO, NY — It is hard to overstate the enthusiasm Jeff Siegel has for his baby—the Bagel Festival. Last year, in the run up to the first Bagel Festival, Siegel obtained resolutions from the village, the town, the county, the state assembly and state senate all naming Monticello the Bagel Capital.

His marketing efforts led to an event that drew 5,000 people. At a press conference at the government center on April 9, Siegel said that, for a first festival, 5,000 people is “unheard of.” Attendance, he said, would more usually be in the range of 500 to 1,500.

He noted that some in the county “chuckled” when he started promoting his Bagel Festival. But he said he is expecting 15,000 in 2014. And he said he’s aiming for 50,000 by the end of five years. He said, “I will get to that 50,000 people and no one will be chuckling, they’ll be happy and smiling and the tourism, commerce and job creation will be flowing.”

He noted that this is a national event. Of the 5,000 that came last year, only 1,500 were from Sullivan County; the rest were from outside of the county and other states, and some from other countries.

He said there are a couple of new items this year to help draw tourists. One is the creation of a seven- or eight-foot-tall bagel statue that will be created by Callicoon artist and welder John Cook.

The bagel statue will be stationed on Broadway. Siegel said, “On the rear side of the bagel, which will be flat, people who come to the Bagel Festival in 2014 will have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sign their name on the back of the bagel. After the Bagel Festival is over we’re going to seal the bagel so that nobody else will be able to sign, and that statue will remain there forever.”

Another attraction this year is the prototype for the first bagel machine made in the United States, which was created in the 1960s by Sullivan County resident Louis Wichinsky.

While working on obtaining the metal for the sculpture, Siegel learned that the prototype for the bagel machine was in the possession of Quickway Metal Fabricators, who said they had tried to donate the machine to a museum but no one was interested.

Siegel was interested, and now the machine will be on display at the festival in a clear case that will cost $1,000 to create.

Siegel said that the cost of mounting this festival is $50,000, which is why he is seeking sponsors. So far, two of the biggest sponsors to sign on are Empire Resorts and Bethel Woods Center for the Arts.

Go to thebagelfestival.org/event/ for more information.