December 8, 2011 —
Every year at this time, I read statistics regarding how folks from all walks of life fall prey to depression and sadness during the holidays, and I felt as if I was about to join the ranks this week. Being constantly bombarded by the commercialism of the season doesn’t help, since I know in my heart that the celebrations of different faiths really have little to do with money and that millions of people around the globe are rejoicing from a spiritual point of view.
That being said, I have found that small town life and the festivities that abound here in the Catskills are less concerned with who spends the most money, but rather with the true spirit of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and the like, so I made a decision to ignore the “Bah Humbug” in me and scour the Upper Delaware Valley in search of good will toward man.
Determined to get with the program, I kick-started the truck and made my way to Livingston Manor for opening day of “Trains on Main” at the Catskill Art Society (CAS) (www.catskillartsociety.org ) in conjunction with the gallery celebrating its 40th anniversary. Instantly, my mood was elevated to one of good cheer, as I observed both kids and adults being magically transported to a winter wonderland of miniature trains and villages, and I joined the crowd participating in a sing-along as the fabulous Mountain Tones (firstname.lastname@example.org ) entertained, as they always do. There are train exhibits at both CAS and Main Street neighbor Morgan Outdoors (www.morgan-outdoors.com ) through the month of December. Local locomotive enthusiast Charlie Sanborn informed me that the trains will be running every Saturday afternoon, in addition to simply being on display.
Santa made an appearance at CAS and the little ones sat on his lap, had their pictures taken and whispered in his ear. As the jolly one revved up his sleigh, I decided to follow him and discovered that his next stop was the Bethel Woods (bethelwoodscenter.org) Holiday Market, which was thrumming with activity.
More than a thousand people had shown up the day before, and as I entered, the S.S. Seward Select Choir (www.floridaufsd.org ) was caroling for the crowd with exquisite harmonies and setting the tone for the day, which was replete with scores of activities for the kids, a roaring fire, scads of local vendors and of course, Santa himself, who winked at me as I snapped a few pics and chatted with the ebullient DJs from Thunder 102 (www.thunder102.com ), who were broadcasting live from the event floor.
I schmoozed with elves, sampled a few treats and discovered that the Hanukkah storybooks had all been snatched up earlier in the day, but felt comfort and joy as I headed out once again, after informing Santa (as if he wasn’t already aware!) that there was a party going on in Hurleyville. The Sullivan County Historical Society (www.sullivancountyhistory.org ) was hosting an open house and reception, honoring its 25th-anniversary Theme Tree Exhibit.
Often considered one of the “best kept secrets” in the county, the society is in residence at the Sullivan County Museum (SCHS), located at 265 Main Street in Hurleyville, NY. The annual holiday exhibit is but one of the many programs the society offers throughout the year. Established in 1929 to “document and preserve Sullivan County history,” the SCHS maintains the museum, archives and historical rooms which are designed, constructed and decorated by volunteer members and friends of the society.
A musical performance by the Liberty Free Methodist Choir served as a perfect backdrop for the theme trees, which are sponsored and decorated by a variety of organizations each year, and the beautiful display (I even discovered a tree festooned with dreidels and menorahs!) included contributions from the Frederick A. Cook Society, the Walkill Boys and Girls Club of Monticello, the Sullivan County Bee Keepers Association and Unit 73 of the American Legion Auxiliary, to name but a few. With so many programs and exhibits taking place throughout the year, the holiday exhibit makes it a perfect destination for those who have yet to discover all that the museum has to offer.
Santa has assured me that his visits to the region have just begun, and I plan to keep my eye on his travels as the holiday celebrations are now officially underway. Any thoughts of humbug have vanished, thanks to the incredible community spirit around every corner. I plan to light the candles (Hanukkah begins on the 21st), spin the dreidel and join my friends and family as we all celebrate the diversity and sheer joy that the holiday season conjures up for us all. I might even break down, shop local and give a few gifts along the way.