Let the sunshine in
The title above alludes to a variety of things: one, the sun has indeed, been shining; two, the song is from the Age-of-Aquarius “tribal love-rock musical” HAIR; and three, I’ll likely be photographing hippies galore over the
next few months. Yeah, I know… yet another reference to the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock Music Festival being celebrated throughout the Upper Delaware River region, but it is kind of a big deal. It seems that everyone and their mother has jumped on the salute-to-the-sixties bandwagon, and I’m just along for the ride. That said, there are scads of groovy events already happening, and it’s only just begun.
There were long-haired hippies, a buttoned-down “narc” or two, hog farmers and go-go girls as far as the eye could see last Saturday. The Sullivan County International Airport flung open its doors and let the sun shine in on costumed revelers knocking down the gates to celebrate “Peace, Love & Prosperity,” this year’s fundraiser benefitting the Sullivan County Chamber of Commerce. President and CEO Jaimie Schmeizer’s Woodstock-inspired gala was quite an experience; nearly 200 people danced the night away as Back to the Garden 1969, a Woodstock Tribute Band, rocked the roof off the place. The band’s website (www.backtothegarden1969.com) proclaims that, “We are the keepers of the flame of Woodstock Nation” and “the bridge between 1969… and now!” and that, they are. As iconic ‘60s images played across screens flanking the stage, caterers from Bernie’s Holiday Restaurant snaked in and out of the dance floor, serving fantastic finger foods, while Party Master’s DJ Corey G made sure that everyone had a great time, as they lined up at the photo booth for a keepsake. Prizes for “best dressed,” raffles and a face painter were popular highlights as well. Mountain Bear Crafts’ Van Morrow set up shop and screened commemorative tee shirts for guests on the spot. I’ve photographed a lot of events over the years, but this is one for the record books. Schmeizer, supported by a team of amazing board members and staff, have set the bar pretty high (IMHO) for future celebrations this summer. Really high, man.
Hearing that WJFF Radio’s program director Jason Dole had suffered a series of paper cuts while decorating the studio with pop-art flowers in yet another salute to the ‘60s, I headed for Jeffersonville, NY, armed with band-aids. The station’s annual Spring Gathering Pledge Drive is a staple here in the Catskills. Scores of musicians donate their time and considerable talent to assist the volunteers and staff in soliciting donations that help keep the hydro-powered public radio station afloat. As Dharma the Wonder Dog greeted members of Tannis Kowalchuk’s Farm Arts Collective, I was invited to chat briefly about (duh) the award-winning River Reporter and what we are up to in the coming months.
Sharing that I was headed for the “original Woodstock watering hole” (Hector’s Inn) in beautiful Bethel, NY, I grabbed a pastry (or five) and steered toward White Lake for the official unveiling of the first of 50 hand-painted peace doves. The doves are part of a county-wide installation sponsored by the Sullivan Catskills Visitors Association (SCVA) and presided over by CEO/president Roberta Byron-Lockwood, who shared a few words along with Hector’s hostess-with-the-mostess Bonnie Lagoda. Hector’s has been welcoming locals and visitors for 70 years, and Lagoda’s mom attended the original 1969 music festival along with Woodstock icon Duke Devlin and several hundred thousand others. “My memory isn’t as good as it used to be,” Devlin said to the crowd, “But I met these folks at Hector’s 50 years ago and fell in love with this family. I think the feeling is mutual,” he said as artist Kim Simmons stood with Devlin, Lockwood and Lagoda for the big reveal, just as the sun peeked out from behind the clouds.
“All of us at Hector’s would like to thank everyone who came out today,” Lagoda said. “We are truly moved by the support from our customers, the SCVA and Sullivan Renaissance for helping to put this tremendous endeavor together.” Thanking the Town of Bethel for their “unending support” and The River Reporter for capturing the moment, Lagoda invited everyone inside to keep the party going. I may not look great in tie-dye, but my dog makes enough of a psychedelic statement for both of us. It would appear that the “Age of Aquarius” is upon us after all. Let the sun shine in!
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