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Traffic turned away at Howard/Abramson Phish-fest venue

May 26, 2011

BETHEL, NY — On Thursday, May 19, the entrance to the property of Jeryl Abramson and Roy Howard on Route 17B in Bethel was barred and traffic was being turned away as the owners sought to comply with the Town of Bethel’s orders to desist from their plans of hosting a crowd of about 5,000 people for the upcoming Memorial Day Weekend. The planned event on the property was related to the Phish concert at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, scheduled to take place over all three days of the weekend.

Owners Howard and Abramson were passing out the following press release to those who stopped at the entry to their property:

“Due to the heavy-handed threat of prosecution and the clearly uneven application of the law by the Town of Bethel, we regretfully cannot go through with our plan to make everyone’s stay in Bethel more hospitable.

“It is not for our lack of trying to comply, or that we did not apply for the proper permits. It’s just that every permit we get from the town has restrictions that we cannot comply with, such as: evacuating the property for two hours in the middle of the night; limiting our capacity to 25 tents; or requiring additional permits that no one has ever heard of before, such as a permit for a temporary stage. Although other businesses in the town either don’t need the same permits we need, or have fewer restrictions, we seem to be held to a stricter standard when it comes to public safety and even then, there always seems to be another barrier we have to cross.

“We are confident that the Town of Bethel, along with their partner Bethel Woods, has a plan in place that will ensure the safety and well being of the traveling public and town residents. After all, they were anticipating three days of Phish long before we offered our support.

“We hope everyone enjoys their stay in the home of peace, love and music.”

Such things happen

It is appreciable that safety and well being of the traveling public and residence is considered and support is there.Everybody is in peace.

kangra valley

heads in beds

Although in this case "heads" has a double meaning and "beds" might better be "sleeping bags", this whole episode illustrates the chicken and egg dilemma that the county faces.

There are not enough hotel rooms to service the number of people coming to Bethel Woods and there never will be until more attractions, events, etc. are created that match today's market.

The legacy of the large hotels' demise is about not adapting to the marketplace--today's challenge is for the county's business community to finally grasp that gaming is not the panacea. Variety, authenticity, appealing to the vast "gorgeous mosaic" that is the NYC metropolitan area--all of these are words and phrases that tourism planners must keep in front of them.

Ask a middle class family on Long Island to name a modern family resort within 3 to 3 1/2 hours from their homes--they might indeed say "Woodloch Pines" in the northern Poconos, or "Rocking Horse Ranch" in the Hudson Valley. But, for the moment, I can guarantee they won't name a place in Sullivan County other than Villa Roma and there may be some question about how modern it is even considering its recent rebuild.

The year round attractions that appeal to families cost money to build--no question. But this is a world of risk-reward. Oddly enough, the Yasgur Farms people seemed willing to risk to host visitors for Phish--because of the obvious animosity that goes both ways, they were not rewarded.

Someone must take a chance and envision an approach to tourism that has a sense of place that fits the county and that matches the market's needs. No one buys anything unless it solves a problem--help that middle-income family in the NYC area have a great vacation, create indelible memories, and fill their I-phones with fun pictures and the county will come back.

For those who don't want to hang their economic hats on tourism, I certainly understand. But, until Delaware Valley becomes Silicon Valley the Fifth, family tourism remains the economic engine for Sullivan County. Rev it up.