Saturday, August 5, 2017

A French Affair in Phoenicia

The eighth annual Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice kicked off last night at 8 pm with a treat for ears and eyes: “Voices of Distinction—A French Affair,” featuring Piaf, Offenbach, Brel . . . and can-can! The evening was filled with glorious music and dance in a gorgeous setting (Phoenicia’s Parish Field), with soaring tents and trees lit up in purples, blues and reds. At the concessions tent there was even a miniature Tour Eiffel picked out in tiny white lights.

Fortunately, yesterday afternoon's monsoon was over and the two-hour outdoor performance was completely free of rain (unlike the water-soaked passion of this year's FotV program cover; see image at right).

From the start this festival has boasted world-class performers, and 2017 is no exception. Last night MC (and co-founder) Maria Todaro, Lauren Flanigan (soprano), Lucas Meachem (baritone), Mirelle Asselin, (soprano) and Irina Meachem (pianist)—all of whom are acclaimed internationally—were joined on the stage by Parisian superstar Olivier Laurent, the so-called “man of 110 voices.”

But FotV isn’t just about veteran artists. Last evening’s audience was on its feet for 14-year-old Maia Weis (alto) and 16-year-old Layla Michalopoulos (soprano), both of whom are residents of Woodstock. These young teens gave astonishingly polished performances that would have done credit to women two or three times their age.

EW Verdict: The weekend is still young and the weather in Phoenicia looks good. Link here to get tickets for today’s and tomorrow’s FotV performances. Or if you’re unlucky enough to be reading this after 8/6/17, don’t hesitate to attend next August’s celebration. It’s another incredible Woodstock-area experience that just has to be on your bucket list.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Kaaterskill Rail Trail

On Saturday, May 20th, the Mountain Top Historical Society held a ribbon-cutting ceremony marking the opening of a new trail connecting the MTHS directly to the renowned Kaaterskill Falls. Now it's possible to hike directly from the restored Ulster & Delaware Railroad station on the MTHS campus—along a lovely, leafy trail (liberally studded with original rail ties)—to the new falls observation platform. From there one can continue across a new footbridge and follow the trail all the way to Windham, more than 20 miles to the northeast!

The Falls of Kaaterskill, 1826,
by Thomas Cole
KRT KioskThe Kaaterskill Falls is a two-stage waterfall located between Haines Falls and Palenville (a half-hour's drive from Woodstock). With waters cascading down a jaw-dropping 230 feet, it's one of the highest falls in the eastern United States. It's also one of America's oldest tourist attractions, inspiring countless stories, poems and other works of art—including paintings by Thomas Cole and Asher B. Durand of the famed Hudson River School.

The Kaaterskill Rail Trail (KRT) was originally a footpath connecting the Catskill Mountain House and other area hotels to Haines Falls. By the 1880s the pathway had been transformed into a busy rail corridor with two competing rail lines transporting thousands of vacationers to the Hotel Kaaterskill, the Laurel House hotel and many other boarding houses and resorts in the area. Throngs of summer visitors were drawn from New York City, Albany, Boston and other urban centers to enjoy the cooler temperatures and picturesque scenery still so popular today.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

2017 Green Woodstock

The Woodstock area is welcoming visitors this spring with a festival of Earth-friendly events. On Saturday, April 29th,  The Ashokan Center ("celebrating 50 years of outdoor education") hosted the 2017 Ashokan Watershed Conference. The program included a full day of presentations and workshops for adults: "Building Sustainable Communities in a Changing Environment."

It also offered a Stream Explorers Youth Conference, geared for children ages 8 to 14:

  • Stream Dynamics: Fun with the Stream Table
  • Getting to Know Your Macroinvertebrates
  • Cathedral Gorge Hike:
  1. Gorge Exploration
  2. Water Quality Sampling
  3. Riparian Area Flora and Fauna
  4. Art of Journaling
On Friday, April 28th, Woodstock observed Arbor Day with a special ceremony on the Woodstock Village Green. And the previous Saturday, April 22nd, the Woodstock Environmental Commission partnered with Sunflower Natural Foods Market to promote Earth Day awareness about solar solutions, gardening and landscaping best practices, composting and recycling, Earth-friendly building, safe hiking and other outdoor activities, and a new repair café in Woodstock.