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‘Changing the Course’ of Sullivan County

HURLEYVILLE, NY — Sullivan Renaissance begins their two-day annual conference, “Changing the Course,” on Friday, May 17 at the Michael Ritchie Big Barn. “Changing the Course” aims to inspire attendees into action through discussion and enrichment activities. “Explore the relationship between healthy places and healthy people. Connect with the many exciting things that are happening in and around Sullivan County. Bring your family and friends on a personal exploration of placemaking and learn why it matters. Explore how you as an individual can be part of an overall movement to transform communities in Sullivan County.”

At 4:30 p.m., doors open for an afternoon mixer with refreshments and networking. At 5:30 p.m., Ben Winchester will present “Going big in small places,” a brief talk that will dispel the myth of “brain drain,” the phenomenon of young people leaving small towns, and focus on the “brain gain” that is occurring throughout rural America. With 20 years of experience working in and for small towns, he is a rural sociologist from the University of Minnesota and serves as a senior research fellow at the university’s Center for Community Vitality. After the talk, there will be a moderated panel discussion centered on the reasons young professionals are seeking and finding opportunities in Sullivan County. The panelists include community members Shannon Cilento, Sims Foster, Katrina Graby, Nicole Vallance, Tyrus Walker and Christine Wong.

On Saturday, May 18, the day begins at 9 a.m. with “Characteristics of a successful rural community… It’s all here in Sullivan County,” an expansion of Friday’s discussion led by Ben Winchester. This talk will define the characteristics that attract young professionals and families. A group of panelists representing key organizations and policymakers will share the progress of important local initiatives and new projects in line with “Changing the Course” of Sullivan County.

After another networking opportunity during lunch, the conference will move to Main Street, Hurleyville for the following workshops and enrichment activities: “Place Matters” film screening, tactical urbanism demonstration, hands-on gardening workshop, tai chi and yoga sampler, guided rail trail history walk, biking the O&W rail trail, basketball clinic, pickle ball exhibition game and more.

To register for the conference, visit, call 845/295-2445, or email


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