March 27, 2013 —
Finally, spring is in the air. Despite the somewhat frigid temps and occasional snow showers, the undeniable signs of seasonal change are everywhere. Although I’ve yet to have a sighting, friends and neighbors have been spotting robins throughout the Upper Delaware Valley and the icicles on my roof are slowly beating a retreat. Making a mental note to ignore the groundhog next year, I attempted to brush the wonder dog, whose fur coat was out of control, and threw my hands up, frustrated over the snarls and knots that had taken her hostage over the harsh winter months. With Passover looming, I was concerned that her appearance would be a reflection on me and placed an emergency call to groomer Amanda Kille (845/887-4708) in Long Eddy, NY.
“Never fear, Amanda is here,” she chirped into the phone, and before the day was out, Dharma had shed her winter coat, looking fresh as a daisy and pretty sporty, so I decided to take her along (what else is new?) to the Sullivan County Sportsman’s and Outdoor Recreation Expo in Callicoon, NY (www.villaroma.com ), where the Chamber of Commerce (www.catskills.com ) was sponsoring the event in conjunction with the Sullivan County Visitors Association (SCVA), (www.scva.net ). On my way, I noticed another sure sign of spring—people. Shoveling and sweeping, folks were in their yards and on the streets, greeting each other like long lost friends, happy to have shed a layer or two as they breathed in the fresh mountain air and began the outdoor transition from slush to mud.
Dharma alerted me to animals in the road, and at first glance I thought it was horses, but a second look confirmed that it was innkeeper Victoria Lesser (www.theoldnorthbranchinn.com ) out for a stroll, flanked by her gigantic (and gorgeous) dogs. Pulling over, I inquired about her next venture, since I had heard that the Inn was changing hands. “Where did you hear that?” she asked while I snapped a pic and patted the dogs. “A little birdie told me,” I replied. “Isn’t it true?” Shaking her head, Victoria informed me that although rumors were flying, the inn is up and running, ready for guests. The place is (IMHO) a local treasure, and the beautifully decorated guest rooms, cafe and antiques gallery make the historic structure a destination. When asked, Lesser told me that the turn of the century bowling alley was ready for parties, and I assured her that I would spread the news, before taking my leave.
Once inside the Villa’s convention center, I stopped at various booths and checked out the schedule of demonstrations happening throughout the day, including trapping, fly fishing and meeting some birds of prey, which intrigued the dog, but put me on alert. A crowd had formed at the base of the rock-climbing wall where Times Herald Record writer Leonard Sparks was attempting the ascent. “Uh oh, Sparks. The River Reporter is here,” one of the onlookers yelled, as I set up the camera to capture the moment, taunting him and talking smack. “You can do better than that,” I laughed, observing that one foot still on the ground didn’t count. “Strap me in fellas, I’m going up,” I shouted and dared Leonard to show me up.
Looking defeated as I scrambled up the 40-foot wall, Sparks sighed and gave up as I reached the summit and rang the bell, determined to look brave and waving at the crowd cheering me on. “Better luck next time,” I crowed, patting him on the back and reminding him that The River Reporter is always up for a challenge. Properly chagrined, Leonard shook my hand and assured me that he would “try harder next time,” as I retrieved the pup from SCVA president Roberta Byron-Lockwood’s loving arms and exited, headed for Narrowsburg, NY.
As part of the Delaware Valley Arts Alliance (DVAA) “Salon Series” (www.artsalliancesite.org ), the Little Sparrow Band was performing in the Krause Recital Hall, doing what they do so well. Aldo Troini, Kurt Knuth, Lynn Reno, Lester Wilson and “leader of the flock,” Carol Smith, introduced guest musician Van Manakas to the packed house as they entertained with their acoustic mix of traditional bluegrass, ’60s rock, Americana and original tunes. I’ve heard the down-home band before, but last Sunday’s show was exemplary and I can honestly say that listening to these accomplished musicians made me just plain feel good. “I’m joyful and nervous and so happy to see everyone here,” Smith shared, as Aldo leaned into the mic and proclaimed, “It’s hillbilly time.” Beautiful harmonies and a great rapport with the crowd ensued, and I was reminded how the band has spread its wings and soared since forming in 2008. If anyone asks where you heard of them, tell them a little birdie told you.