celebrations

‘We’re so grateful to live here’

Nestled in a valley, with the Delaware running through it, Callicoon shines

By ANNEMARIE SCHUETZ
Posted 11/25/20

CALLICOON, NY — Twenty-some years ago, I asked lifelong Callicoon resident Ed Curtis if the current boom would last.

We’d just seen a big increase in home sales, after a long period of …

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celebrations

‘We’re so grateful to live here’

Nestled in a valley, with the Delaware running through it, Callicoon shines

Posted

CALLICOON, NY — Twenty-some years ago, I asked lifelong Callicoon resident Ed Curtis if the current boom would last.

We’d just seen a big increase in home sales, after a long period of nothing. Empty storefronts were filling up again. There was an energy in town that I hadn’t seen since the 1970s.

Curtis shrugged and smiled. Everything runs in cycles, he said. But who knew?

Who knew, indeed.

Callicoon looks even better than it did in the 1970s. That cycle is still going, still ticking upward. Home sales are skyrocketing as people leave the city. The town is full of music on weekends, and even in November, people throng the streets. New projects and events have energized the town.

And it took everyone, locals and newcomers, to make it happen.

Irene Nickolai first saw Callicoon years ago when she visited a friend in North Branch. “Callicoon was just a gem in the raw,” she says. “It was really a beautiful area,” not commercialized, still full of small businesses. “I thought it was a great place to live.”

Why? “The raw nature, the water element, the rolling hills.” People said hello. They visited on porches.

So, Nickolai bought the building next to the Western, which had been for sale for years. And she “got involved in the community.” She and others went to work, creating events.

Those events have drawn tourists to Callicoon over the last five years. Businesses filled their windows with local art during the Artwalk. Visitors could wander the town, look at what folks did here, stop in, buy things. It was a great introduction to the artistic side of Callicoon.

There was Dickens on the Delaware, which turned Callicoon into a Victorian extravaganza. (And those of us who are into historical costumes had an excuse to dress up.) “All the shops chipped in to promote the events,” Nickolai said. There was the Porchfest last year, in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, with bands on porches around town and people dancing in the street.

Meanwhile, she made changes—moved up full-time, bought the Western Hotel and started hosting events there. “I realized... the Western was a central point in the community,” she said.

Nickolai is still renovating the hotel. “Due to COVID, we made an outside area so people can congregate in a safe way.” She’ll renovate the ballroom and host more music. Plays, maybe, like the Western used to do? Who knows? Nickolai wants to continue doing events “and create a space for the community.”

“We’re so grateful to live here,” says Joe Freda.

“I love the town. I love the sunsets,” his brother, Tom, adds. “A herd of deer walked right down that street,” he says, pointing to A. Dorrer Drive behind Lower Main Street. “I just sat on the deck at the Raleigh and said, ‘Isn’t this awesome?’”

Tom and Joe are fourth-generation Callicoon residents; their family came over from Italy and worked on the seminary in town. They owned a farm where the new Riverside Park will go. Some Fredas owned an 18th-century farm on the PA side of the river. Tom and Joe’s father started a real estate business in town, and now the brothers run it. Those are some deep roots, and they’ve seen changes over the years.

“Callicoon has amazing energy,” Joe said.  Take the park: “It’s a gorgeous project... it’s going to enhance our approach to the river.” There’s the visitors center project at the old railway station, “a really welcoming anchor in town.”

Callicoon provides easy river access, said Tom. He’s done a lot of traveling and “fishermen the world over know our area because of trout fishing.”

The sheer size of the river matters. “It’s not a creek” that bills itself as a river, he said. It’s the real thing, beautiful and unspoiled.

Joe praises the people, “the mix of locals and folks from the city. It’s a very copacetic mix.”

The Fredas talk about the businesses in town, how everyone works together to make events and change happen. There’s the farmers’ market where “local farms can bring their food” in, said Tom.

There’s the beautiful movie theater, “and Peck’s, we have a very good supermarket.” We pause to remember the olden days of winter-sad produce, many decades past. Those days are long, long gone. “How lucky we are,” Tom said, praising the selection and quality now.

Joe talks about Spruce and Callicoon Provisions, who sell what Peck’s doesn’t carry. The wine store and tapas bar. The restaurants. And, of course, there’s John Erik Karkula, who keeps the town looking stunning with the plantings and the garden and the work on Riverside Park.

Everyone. It takes everyone to make it happen, to make it wonderful.

“It’s just getting better and better,” Tom said. “The energy of the people coming in, it couldn’t be better.”

Oh, Christmas tree...

Donations are being collected to replace Callicoon’s old holiday lights with LED bulbs, which will brighten up town and make the Christmas tree at the train station shine. It’ll be better for the environment and make the town “a bright beacon of light for residents and visitors alike.” Visit I Love Callicoon’s Facebook page for more information.

The Main Street Thrift Shop is asking for donations of money or time or both! Those gifts will help the area’s less fortunate get through a holiday season that is really challenging for some. Drop off funds at the thrift shop on Lower Main, or call them at 845/887-5919.

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