TRR photos by Jonathan Fox

 Woodcarver extraordinaire Cima Bue created this flaming tribute to “A Christmas Carol” for last weekend’s “Dickens on the Delaware,” the town-wide wonderland in Callicoon, NY. “Yep, it will be all gone by the end of the night,” Cima said to passersby. That’s what makes it ephemeral. 

Baby it’s cold outside

There. I said it. In the wake of recent controversy over the classic holiday tune, I can’t help but think of poor Frank Loesser, who penned those lyrics in 1944, and is surely spinning in his grave. A quick Wikipedia search revealed that “while the lyrics make no mention of any holiday, it is popularly regarded as a Christmas song, owing to its winter theme.” The song was originally presented twice in the 1949 film “Neptune’s Daughter,” sung first as a love song by Ricardo Montalbán and Esther Williams and repeated later by Red Skelton and Betty Garrett in a spoof,  with a twist—he wants her to leave. As the multitudes weigh in on the “political correctness” of the words, I’m more interested in the history of the song. My internet search revealed that Loesser wrote “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” to sing with his wife, Lynn Garland, at their housewarming party in New York City, prior to its inclusion in the aforementioned film. “They sang the song,” according to Loesser’s daughter Susan, “to indicate to guests that it was time to leave.” The Academy-Award winning duet has been recorded more than 50 times by the likes of Sammy Davis Jr. and Carmen McRae, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Bette Midler and James Caan, and (believe it or not) Zooey Deschanel and Leon Redbone, to name but a few. I only mention it here because, well… it’s cold outside!

It was in fact, quite frigid when I bundled up the dog and headed out to the Hurleyville Arts Centre for the Sullivan Catskills Visitors Association (SCVA) annual end-of-year report and holiday party. Not wanting to spoil the festive mood, I eschewed any mention of the tune, choosing instead to concentrate on the fantastic food, convivial atmosphere and the awards themselves, given out to NYS Sen. John Bonacic (Leadership Excellence), Franklin Trapp (Star Business Award/Forestburgh Playhouse), Marilyn Kocher (Star Individual/The Rose Cottage B&B), and Shane Phillipy (T.O.A.S.T.* Award/Bernies Holiday Restaurant). While some of the acceptance speeches were moving and heartfelt, what I recall most is Senator Bonicic asking where the dog was (visiting with fans) and Phillipy ( BHR catered the affair) comically remarking that “It’s not every day that a waiter wins an award and then gets to clean up your garbage afterwards.” Hilarious.

Before dessert there was an in-depth report on how the county has fared over the last year. Amidst all of the facts and figures, one thing was clear: Sullivan County is on the rise. “We are attracting new businesses and visitors,” SCVA President Roberta Byron-Lockwood said in her opening remarks. “This last year saw a rise in tourism spending, where $450 million were left here in the county.” Lockwood illuminated some of the plans for 2019, citing the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock Music Festival as a highlight and sharing her enthusiasm for what lies ahead. “This evening has been so very nice,” I whispered to the dog, so that no one would hear my reference to the Frank Loesser song playing in my head. As I bundled her up to face the cold outside, I shivered. “Well, maybe just a half a drink more.” I mused, “But I really can’t stay.”

The next day was even colder, and I put several layers on before heading to Callicoon, NY, and “Dickens on the Delaware,” an annual event featuring shopkeepers decked out in Victorian garb, horse and buggy rides, a pop-up Holiday Market, mulled wine (whatever that is) and caroling. The “funeral procession” in honor of Dickens himself, was created and performed by the NACL Streets ensemble, who never fail (IMHO) to produce a visual feast for all to enjoy. Presented by the Callicoon Business Association, the annual “Victorian Holiday Wonderland” draws folks from near and far, and is a glittering example of what can be accomplished when like-minded individuals band together in celebration of small-town life. Knowing that the Santa Express was due to pull into Bethel later in the day, I warmed my hands by one of Cima Bue’s fantastic and ephemeral flaming sculptures before heading home.

As the temperature dipped below 10 degrees, I made the executive decision to leave Dharma indoors and brave the Santa Express alone. “Baby, it’s cold outside,” I cooed to the dog, “You’ll thank me later.” OK, so cold is not really the word I would use to describe the arctic chill that descended on the crowd out to experience the sights and sounds of the magical holiday train. The locomotive makes its way through eight (count ‘em!) towns over the course of five nights, enchanting young and old with live music, twinkling lights and a colorful cast of characters (including the fat man, of course) all of whom interact with the kids. Just before my camera battery froze, I made note that the holiday train will pull in Yulan, Eldred and Lumberland this weekend before heading back to the North Pole. For info on where and when, check out our calendar section on page 28, and be sure to bundle up, because, well… you know.

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*Tribute to Outstanding Association Serving Tourism (say that three times fast).


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