in my humble opinion

Eyes on the skies!

(Are you gonna eat that?)

Posted 5/15/24

“With just days to go until the highly anticipated ‘Catskills Cuisine’ kicks off,” the press release began, “the Sullivan Catskills Visitors Association (SCVA) is …

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in my humble opinion

Eyes on the skies!

(Are you gonna eat that?)


“With just days to go until the highly anticipated ‘Catskills Cuisine’ kicks off,” the press release began, “the Sullivan Catskills Visitors Association (SCVA) is gearing up to host the second annual multi-day culinary extravaganza, brought to you by LaBelle Farms and presented by Resorts World Catskills and Bethel Woods.”

Wondering if there was a connection to the “Godmother of Soul,” I scanned the invitation searching for a mention of Patti LaBelle herself. Finding none, I was momentarily crestfallen. So far, 2024 appears to be a nonstop celebration of all things edible here in the Upper Delaware River region and yet I’m at a loss. I’m not that big a fan of food, eating or cooking shows on television—but apparently a lot (and I mean a lot) of my pals are.

“It’s not just about food,” the dog reminded me, pointing a paw at more words on the computer screen. “In addition to the food festival, the lineup includes a celebrity and chef invitational golf tournament and an exclusive Mother’s Day brunch on Sunday, featuring special culinary experiences by celebrity chefs.”

Wishing I knew how to play golf and that my mom was still around, I hemmed and hawed before sending my RSVP. I had guests coming to town, and when I asked if there was any interest in me snagging tickets for the celebrity chef “extravaganza” during their whirlwind visit to the Catskills, they were enthusiastic. 

“Oh, I love Anne Burrell,” gal-pal Hillary Cohen exclaimed. “And I love to eat,” her friend Taliah chimed in. “Yes,” they said in unison. “We’d love to. Let’s go!” 

Mimicking my dog, I cocked my head to one side and proceeded to hit the internet hard. “With her trademark spiky blonde hair and sparkling personality, Anne Burrell is the hugely popular fan-favorite host of ‘Worst Cooks in America’ on the Food Network,” the Google informed me. 

“Oh, I know who she is,” I said to the gals. “Probably because I’m one of the worst cooks on Earth. Not only that, but there’s a good chance we might see the northern lights while you’re visiting. There’s a huge solar storm on the horizon. I’ve never seen them, have you?”

Having read that the Catskills region might be in the path of an “extreme geomagnetic storm” that was headed for the planet, I got goosebumps. “The skies of upstate New York could be awash with beautiful northern lights this weekend, so get your cameras ready,” advised Sunny Hernandez of NYUP (dot com.) 

“The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) reports that a rare storm watch has been issued for May 10 to 11,” I informed my future guests. “‘A watch of this kind hasn’t happened since 2005,’ NOAA announced, ‘and the northern lights could be visible as far south as Alabama, which is extraordinary.’” 

Knowing that River Reporter production manager (and world-class photographer) Amanda Reed would be scanning the skies from South Carolina, I called her for any tips she might have. “Don’t even bother with your big camera,” Amanda advised. “Use your phone. You’d have to zoom in to get rid of the light, and then you won’t get the full pretty. Good luck!” 

My friends arrived, and after barely acknowledging my existence, they proceeded to make a huge fuss over That Dog Named Gidget, enthuse about attending Catskills Cuisine and the possibility of seeing what my dog referred to as the “adoraborbliatus” on her social media pages.

I figured out that Gidget meant “aurora borealis,” which means “a natural electrical phenomenon characterized by the appearance of streamers of reddish or greenish light in the sky caused by interaction of charged particles from the sun with atoms in the upper atmosphere.” And then it happened.

By 10 p.m. the girls were already settled into their cute rental cabin nearby when I began texting and texting them to “go outside and look up,” because the skies had indeed cleared enough for us to see that the northern lights had arrived in resplendent glory. 

Awed by the never-before-seen auroras, I oohed and ahhed, along with hundreds of friends and neighbors who were also outside, posting cell phone pics to social media in real time. 

“The northern lights [are happening] right now at Hector’s Inn!” proprietress Bonnie Lagoda announced online, accompanied by some truly awesome photos.

 “Look at these!” Amanda texted me from down south with photos attached. “I’ve taken soooo many photos!” 

I immediately posted a few to the River Reporter Facebook and Instagram accounts, suggesting that folks add theirs to the mix, and the responses flooded in. 

Not only were the auroras awe-inspiring, but the collective experience playing out online in real time was (IMHO) very, very cool. I went outside no fewer than six times during the night, and having heeded Amanda’s advice to use my cell phone camera on night vision, managed to snap some wild photos of the reddish, purple-ish streaks undulating through the clouds above Camp Fox. 

As it turns out, the dog was unimpressed with the “adoraborbliatus” but she took advantage of multiple trips outside to catch a frog, eat a bug and zip around the house zoomies-style at 2 a.m.—so she was one happy puppy. 

The next day, both Hillary and Taliah were less than thrilled that they had slept through the light show, but excited about attending Catskills Cuisine. Celebrity chefs like Andrew Zimmern, Michael Symon, Melba Wilson and Ms. Burrell were scheduled to present cooking demonstrations and we got to see Hillary’s favorite TV chef in action—but the ladies were also happy for the chance to check out the museum, walk the hallowed grounds of the 1969 Woodstock Music Festival and spend more time with my dog. Oh, right—I was there too. 

We had a grand time at the event and Gidget was on her best service-dog-in-training behavior. We strolled the grounds, checking out tent after tent of demos, tastings and vendors galore—running into scads of foodies and pals who were also lured to Bethel Woods by the SCVA’s promise of an “extravaganza.” It did not disappoint.

The weather was perfect, the food was amazing and the clouds were simply stunning, making for even more great photos. My friends have gone home, but they took with them memories that will last a lifetime. Except for the northern lights part, of course. They slept through that. Thankfully, I did not. Sorry, ladies; maybe next time. 

For more pics, check out our social media pages and don’t forget: Eyes on the Skies. You never know what might be up there. 

in my humble opinion, aurora borealis, Sullivan Catskills Visitors Association, Resorts World Catskills and Bethel Woods, SCVA, northern lights, Food Network, Anne Burrell, That Dog Named Gidget


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