TRR photos by Jonathan Fox

Sullivan County Chamber of Commerce President Cathy Paty and treasurer Heinrich Strauch presented Bethel Woods CEO Darlene Fedun, far right,  with the “Business Person of the Year” Pride Award last Thursday.

Ain't no mountain high enough

I’m not big on awards shows. Don’t get me wrong—it’s kind of cool when folks are acknowledged for one thing or another, especially when it’s by their peers. And it’s not sour grapes, either, since I’ve received one or three over the years. No, it’s the hours-long American Music Awards pat-on-the-back type thing that gets to me, working my jangled, aging nerves and serving as a constant reminder that I am a dinosaur. “Don’t watch!” my mother would yell, while calling me in a panic to comment on Lady Gaga. “Who is she? Is that dress made out of roast beef?”

As a general rule, I don’t watch these days, preferring to spend my spare time writing future award-winning essays of my own, but last night’s AMA extravaganza promised a “Lifetime Achievement” award (and retrospective) for the one and only Diana Ross. Back in the dark ages (I mean the ‘60s) The Supremes were everything, and hits like “You Can’t Hurry Love,” “Come See About Me” and “I hear A Symphony” dominated the charts as three young ladies from Detroit took the world by storm. “They’re so glamorous!” Mom would enthuse. “Look at those (meatless) gowns!”

Today, of course, the story has been told. Miss Ross stepped into a spotlight of her own, leaving Florance Ballard and Mary Wilson behind, achieving superstar status and reigning as a diva for decades. And so, I tuned in, recalling having seen Ross several times over the years, anticipating her tribute while simultaneously shaking my head over performers I’ve never heard of. Kahlid? Portugal the Man? Marshmello? Really? Suddenly, Lady Gaga (looking like a mummy at a fencing lesson) seemed warm and familiar as I suffered through close to three hours waiting for the now 73-year-old Ross to take the stage and remind us all of what music used to sound like. Awards. Oy.

How fitting, then, that last Thursday I attended the Sullivan County Pride awards banquet, “Celebrating 26 years of Great Accomplishments,” presented by the Chamber of Commerce. Contrary to the music awards, I knew everyone involved, and the affair was lovely, honoring Phil Eggleton (Township Award), Katrina Graby (Young Emerging Leader), Ira and Ruby Gold (Distinguished Service), Brian Rourke (Distinguished Achievement) and Darlene Fedun (Business Person of the Year), who stated that she is “grateful to Alan Gerry, the chairman of Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, for all the years working alongside him.” Fedun, who started out working as a waitress in the old Grossinger’s Hotel, paid her dues, climbed the ranks, and emerged as the CEO of Bethel Woods. Looking like a star herself, Fedun had this to say: “Always challenge yourself. Find something you love, be humble [uh oh] and always give back when you can.” Strikingly similar to Diana’s message the other night. Hmm.

Before attending my favorite art show opening of the year (Art in Sixes), I put a sweater on the dog and made my way across the county to pay my respects to another superstar: Leone Semerano, who was being honored for her 43 years of service as a registered nurse, 41 of them at Orange Regional Medical Center. “Shh! It’s a surprise,” daughters Michelle and Nicole informed me prior to the party. And sure enough, the look on Leone’s face when she realized that the ‘60s-themed event was intended for her was classic. More than 100 of her peers (there’s that word again) filled the space at the Eagles Nest while I photographed the party for Leone’s scrapbook, dinner was served, speeches were made and tributes presented. Better than the Music Awards—IMHO.

On Saturday, Dharma and I headed to the Alliance Gallery in Narrowsburg for the 13th annual Art in Sixes. With more than 500 “small works” on display and scads of artists at the reception, this show always blows me away. DVAA Director Ariel Shanberg greeted me at the door with enthusiasm.”This is a show that unites us all,” Shanberg said, pointing out that even artists who have moved out of state contributed to this exhibit. “In the short amount of time that I’ve been here, I’m simply amazed by how folks remain tied to the region, and of how supportive the community is of local artists.”

The space was mobbed by well-wishers and artists alike, and I chatted with many local superstars, including Kelly Ryan, whose beautiful “alcohol inks on ceramic tiles” met the criteria that all artwork be “no larger than six inches in any direction.” Squirming through the crowd, I spied Ann Finneran, who just happened to be near her painting titled “Hole in the Sky” when a “sold” sticker appeared. Extending a hand, buyer Mike Weddley introduced himself. “I just met [gallery director] Rocky Pinciotti yesterday,” he said “and here I am, purchasing [Finneran’s]  art. How cool is that?” 

Although I knew most, I was unfamiliar with Paul Plumadore and his fabulous photo-collage pieces created out of “antique turn-of-the-century publicity photos” and thrilled to see that nearby, Sally Rowe was back with her 3-D vintage miniatures. They all deserve awards as far as I’m concerned. Thankfully, nobody named “Marshmello” was there. Ain’t no mountain high enough for that.


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