The Catskills wedding boom

Above: At Handsome Hollow in Long Eddy, couples can say their vows in a fern-strewn clearing in the woods on the 93-acre property. Photo by JBM Weddings.

Catskills weddings – especially those with an outdoorsy twist – are on the rise.

Getting hitched in hills is a booming business. Thanks to the wedding industry, there has been a recent uptick in tourism spending in the Catskills.

“We’ve noticed over the last couple years that there’s been quite an increase in country weddings in the area,” said Rick Remsnyder, Ulster County's tourism director.

“It’s a good location and the price is right. We’re 90 minutes from midtown Manhattan and the price is more affordable than the metro area.”

Cathy Ballone, a wedding planner in Greene County, owes her career to the increase in outdoor upstate weddings.

“I see a definite boom,” said Ballone, who runs Cathy’s Elegant Events out of the old Catskill Game Farm in Catskill, which she and her husband recently bought.  Read more

This weekend: Historic Huguenot Street offers new immersive tours

Above: Casey Morris, a 21-year-old historic interpreter and guide at Historic Huguenot Street, welcomes visitors to the Deyo House in New Paltz. Photo by Keady Sullivan.

From the moment you walk into the Crispell Memorial French Church in New Paltz during one of Historic Huguenot Street’s new In-The-Moment tours, you are one of the Huguenots, a community of French Protestants who fled religious persecution in Europe to settle in the Hudson Valley in the 17th century.

The church, a replica of an historic stone church that was the center of New Paltz’s Huguenot community, is hosting a baptism of one of the members of a prominent Huguenot family, the Hasbroucks. You are there thanks to a letter of recommendation from one of the Hasbroucks themselves.

At the nearby Jean Hasbrouck House, a maid welcomes you as a guest of the Hasbrouck family, and then guides you through the house and its history over uneven, rickety floorboards. As she tries to find accommodation for you, she leads you through Esther Hasbrouck’s bedroom, the dining room and the kitchen. At the house of the Deyo family, you marvel at its glamorous electric lighting, the first to appear in the village.

An historic interpreter in the Hasbrouck House in New Paltz. Photo by Keady Sullivan.

The In-The-Moment tours, which feature costumed historical interpreters who improvise their roles as they lead groups through the historic homes of New Paltz, are a new addition for Historic Huguenot Street in 2015. There is no script, so the storyline is slightly different each time you come back. Historically correct sounds, smells and props add to the experience. The costumed guides riff on unexpected anachronisms while staying in character: During one tour, when a guest’s cellphone rang, one historic interpreter asked, ‘Is that a bird, or witchcraft?’”  Read more

Woodstock Writers Radio with Martha Frankel and guests

Where to eat on Fighting Hunger Friday

If you’re planning to eat out today — Friday, May 1 — think of dining at one of the 23 Catskills restaurants in Delaware and Ulster counties that are participating in Fighting Hunger Friday, a fundraiser for the Margaretville’s Community Food Pantry, based in Arkville.

The restaurants, listed below, are accepting cash donations from diners that they will pass on to the food pantry. Leave your donation in a brown paper bag on your table at any participating eatery.

Some of the eateries are offering special menus and matching donations. The Arkville Bread and Breakfast is serving fried chicken and waffles tonight from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., with all proceeds going to benefit the food pantry. The owners of the Crazy River Café in Margaretville will match every donation to the pantry that is made in their restaurant today.  Read more

This Weekend: I Love My Park Day in the Catskills

Above: A poster for Cairo's Town Picnic, one of several events celebrating "I Love My Park Day" in the Catskills this Saturday, May 2.

Saturday, May 2 is the “I Love My Park Day,” a day of outdoor cleanup and volunteerism sponsored by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and the Parks and Trails of New York organization.

One of the woes of the Catskill Park is that it is not technically overseen by New York State’s parks office. Instead, the Catskill Park is a patchwork of wild forests, small state parks and wildernesses overseen by the New York State Department of Conservation.

This means that the Catskills themselves aren’t featured prominently in I Love My Park Day. But that’s not stopping towns and other organizations in the Catskills from celebrating it.  Read more

This weekend: Farmer Party and Dance in Delhi

A new outpost of the National Young Farmers’ Coalition is launching in the Catskills, and this Friday they’re throwing a big party and dance at the American Legion Hall in Delhi.

Even if you’re not a farmer, you’re invited. Morgan O’Kane and DJ Dirtyfinger, both of Brooklyn, will be playing, and everyone is invited to bring a dish to pass. (These are farmers we’re talking about, so the food will be delicious.)

“The event is open to all who farm in the Catskills, as well as those who support farms,” said Kate Marsiglio, a farmer who runs Stony Creek Farmstead in the Delaware County town of Walton and who is one of the local NYFC organizers.

The goal of the new local branch of the NYFC is to “unite all farmers in the Catskills,” Marsiglio said. “Young and old. Experienced and Green. Organic and conventional. We have so much to gain from each other.”  Read more

Young bald eagle shot in Otsego County

Above: A juvenile bald eagle was treated for a gunshot wound by Wes Laraway at the New York Wildlife Rescue Center. Photo by Wes Laraway.

A juvenile bald eagle was shot and left to starve in Otsego County last week, according to wildlife rehabilitator Wes Laraway, who runs the New York Wildlife Rescue Center in the Schoharie County town of Middleburgh. 

Shooting a bald eagle is a federal crime. The Bald Eagle Act of 1940 specifically protects the species, and shooting at a bald eagle is punishable by fines and prison time, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Laraway, who has been rehabilitating wild animals and doing rescue work for 20 years, said that it is unlikely that such a shooting could be an accident.

“There’s no way that anybody could accidentally shoot an eagle. There’s really no other bird that looks like an eagle,” he said. “I’ve seen gunshot wounds on birds of prey before, but I’ve never seen gunshot wounds on an a eagle, and I’ve taken in a dozen.”

The bald eagle that was shot is probably a three- or four-year-old female. She still has the brown head feathers of a juvenile, Laraway said.  Read more

Man injured in Margaretville explosion dies

Forty-two days after he was badly burned in an explosion in his garage in the Delaware County village of Margaretville, 72-year-old Glenford "Sandy" Scudder died of his injuries on Sunday, April 26 at Westchester Medical Center, according to an obituary released by the Hynes Funeral Home in Margaretville.

Left: Sandy Scudder, pictured in a photo from a GoFundMe page, died on Sunday, April 26 of injuries sustained in an explosion on March 16. 

Scudder was a well-known figure in Margaretville, the village where he was born and lived all his life. According to his obituary, Scudder was passionate about hunting, classic cars, his two dogs and watercross, a sport where snowmobilers hydroplane their vehicles across lakes and rivers.  Read more

Child injured in ATV accident dies

An 11-year-old DeLancey boy who was injured in an ATV crash in Hamden last week has died, according to the Delaware County Sheriff's Office and an obituary issued by the family.

Left: Nicholas J. Dungan. Photo via his obituary at the Courtney Funeral Home.  

Nicholas J. Dungan died on Friday night, April 24 at Albany Medical Center, according to a press release from the sheriff's office and his obituary.

Dungan had been driving an ATV on Stoddard Hollow Road in Hamden with his brother on Tuesday, April 21 when he lost control, flipped the ATV and was pinned underneath it. Although he was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash, he sustained serious head injuries.   Read more

Beer boom: TAP NY and the Craft Brew Boogaloo

Above: TAP NY in 2014. Photo by Julia Reischel.

The Catskills beer boom shows no signs of slowing down in 2015.

New breweries continue to open: the Hunter Mountain Brewery (7261 Route 23A Hunter, 518-263-5231) announced its launch on April 1, and the Rip Van Winkle Brewing Company is now operating on the premises of Angela's Italian Restaurant (now Angela's Pizzeria and Brewery) in Catskill, and has a ribbon-cutting scheduled for May 12.  Read more

Wurtsboro man assaults girlfriend with fishing rod, police say

A 27-year-old Wurtsboro man beat his girlfriend with a fishing rod, then "knocked her to the ground, held her down and spit on her," according to the New York State Police.

The police press release describing the incident does not give a date or time for the alleged assault.

Edward V. Kalajian allegedly "struck his girlfriend with a fishing rod causing lacerations to her back" during a domestic dispute in his Wurtsboro home, according to a police press release. He also reportedly broke the woman's phone during the altercation by throwing it against the ground.

Kalajian is being charged with felony assault in the second degree and a slew of misdemeanors, including criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree, criminal obstructed breathing, criminal mischief in the fourth degree and unlawful imprisonment. He is also being charged with harassment in the second degree, a violation.

Kalajian was arraigned in the town of Mamakating and is being held without bail in the Sullivan County Jail. 

Armed robbery at Hancock gas station

Above: A photograph of a suspect who may have robbed a gas station in the Delaware County village of Hancock at gunpoint this week. Photo via the New York State Police.

A man holding what appeared to be a handgun and wearing a mask robbed a Mirabito gas station on Main Street in the village of Hancock on Tuesday, April 21, police say.

The man held up the gas station around 10 p.m. on Tuesday night, according to a press release from the New York State Police. He then fled the scene on foot, heading west, with an "undetermined amount of cash," police say.

The State Police are searching for a suspect in the case. From the press release:

The suspect is described as a white male, approximately 5’ 06” in height, medium build, with short dark colored hair and facial hair. He was last seen wearing a dark grey hooded sweatshirt, grey sweatpants and a knit hat with a brim.

Delaware County's proposed bed tax rises again

Above: Marge Miller, the supervisor of the town of Middletown, Glenn Nealis, Delaware County's Director of Economic Development, and Jim Thomson, then Delaware County's tourism director, discuss the benefits of a county bed tax at a meeting with skeptical hotel owners in March 2014. Photo by Julia Reischel.

A year ago, on April 23, 2014, the Delaware County Board of Supervisors voted to ask the New York State Legislature to impose a 2 percent occupancy tax on room and hotel rentals in Delaware County.

But despite broad support for the so-called bed tax among the county leaders -- 17 out of 19 supervisors voted in favor of the tax last year -- the plan fizzled in at the state level, dying ignominiously in committee. (That may have had something to do with a groundswell of opposition among Delaware County hotel owners against the plan.)

Now the bed tax plan is back. On Wednesday, April 22, 2015, the Delaware County Board of Supervisors once again voted to approve a resolution asking the state legislature to approve a 2 percent bed tax in Delaware County.  Read more

Eleven-year-old boy seriously injured in Hamden ATV crash, police say

An 11-year-old boy was seriously injured in an all-terrain vehicle crash at 1:45 p.m. on Tuesday, April 21 in the Delaware County town of Hamden, police say.

The boy, who is not being identified, was driving with his 9-year-old brother on Stoddard Hollow Road in Hamden when he flipped his ATV into a ditch and was pinned beneath it, according to a press release from the Delaware County Sheriff's Office.

The boy, who was wearing a helmet, sustained serious head injuries. He was airlifted to Albany Medical Center by LifeNet helicopter, police say.

His 9-year-old brother, who was also wearing a helmet, was uninjured in the crash, and ran to his home in Hamden to call 911, police say.

Investigators believe that "excessive speed" was a factor in the crash. According to the press release, the boy was attempting to make a right turn off of Stoddard Hollow Road when the crash occurred.  Read more

Wayside Cider presses wild and heirloom apples into service

Above: Alex Wilson picks apples to make into hard apple cider. Photos courtesy of Alex Wilson and Irene Hussey.

Irene Hussey and Alex Wilson, the co-owners of Wayside Cider (waysidecider.com), a brand-new cidery based on a farm in the Delaware County town of Delhi, just delivered their first batch of hard apple cider to shops, bars, and restaurants in the Catskills, the Hudson Valley and New York City this week.

Hussey and Wilson, who are business partners, are an unlikely pair. Hussey, a Delhi native, is a stone mason, but she’s been homebrewing and making fermented apple cider since her early 20s. Her parents and her brother make cider as well — it’s something of a family tradition.

Wilson, on the other hand, is far from a native; born and raised in England, he ended up in New York City to study film, and stayed after meeting his wife, who is a media attorney in Manhattan. The pair bought a cabin in Hamden as an escape from urban life, and Alex quickly fell in love with the area.

“You can catch trout in the stream, you can hike in the mountains for miles, ride horseback every night,” he said. “It was like paradise to me.”  Read more

Winter's icy grip lingers

Even well into April, ice still lingers on many lakes and reservoirs in the Catskills. The New York City Department of Environmental Protection issued a reminder to fisherman on Thursday, April 16 to stay off the city's Catskills reservoirs until they are ice-free.

This shot of the ice slowly receding on Dixie Lake was taken at Hanofee Park in Liberty by John of Catskills Photography on April 12 and shared in the Watershed Post's Flickr pool. 

Will he or won't he? News reports differ on Lopez's run for Congress

Will State Assemblyman Pete Lopez, who represents portions of the Catskills in Delaware, Greene, and Schoharie counties, run for U.S. Representative's Chris Gibson's vacant seat in Congress in 2016? 

Left: State Assemblyman Pete Lopez. Image via his official website

It depends on what newspaper you read. The Daily Mail reported on Wednesday, April 15 that Lopez has formally announced his intention to run.  Read more

Biker seriously injured in motorcycle crash in Walton

A 61-year-old Walton resident was seriously injured when he crashed his Harley Davidson motorcycle on Route 10 in Walton on Tuesday, April 14, according to the Delaware County Sheriff's Office. 

Kenneth G. Kokoszka was riding south on Route 10 near Bob's Brook Road when he "lost control and left the roadway before overturning the motorcycle in [a] ditch," a sheriff's press release states. The cause of the crash is still under investigation, but investigators have ruled out alcohol as a factor. 

Kokoszka was airlifted to UHS Wilson Memorial Hospital in Johnson City by helicopter, the press release states. The Walton Reporter has photos of the helicopter airlifting Kokoszka after the crash.

Visit a Catskills chocolate factory

Chocolate melting at Lucky Chocolates. Photo by Julia Reischel.

Bryan Graham, the owner of Fruition Chocolate (3091 Route 28, Shokan, 845-657-6717, tastefruition.com) grinds his own cocoa beans, then turns them into simple, small-batch craft chocolate bars in flavors like brown butter milk chocolate and rustic crunch (cocoa nibs, cinnamon and vanilla).

Fruition's chocolate has won national awards—a gold from the Good Food Awards and two silvers from the International Chocolate Awards in 2013 alone. You can visit Fruition's storefront and chocolate factory in the Ulster County hamlet of Shokan, just off Route 28 in an unassuming strip mall.

In a long, narrow storefront in Saugerties, Lucky Chocolates (115 Partition St., Saugerties, 845-246-7337, luckychocolates.com) produces 45 flavors of truffles and other chocolate treats in back, in a Willy Wonka-like chocolate factory filled with delicious smells and busily churning mixers. On every wall, racks of chocolate cooling in pans wait to be sliced by the confectionary guitar.  Read more

Inmate dies at Sullivan Correctional Facility

Above: The sign at the Sullivan Correctional Facility. Photo by Medic18 via Wikipedia. 

An inmate at the maximum security Sullivan Correctional Facility in Fallsburg is dead and three correctional officers are injured, two with "serious physical injuries," according to the Daily Freeman, the Times Herald-Record and the Sullivan County Democrat.

Details about the incident are sketchy. The THR talked to a spokesman for the corrections officers union, which has been calling for more staff in mid-Hudson prisons.

From the THR:  Read more

Early season leads to record bear hunt in southern New York

Above: The 580-pound bear Greene County hunter Tim Meservey shot during the early season in September 2014. Photo courtesy of Tim Meservey.

Bear hunters in New York's Southern Zone killed a record 1,110 bears in 2014, according to harvest figures that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation released on Monday, April 13. That's 12 percent more than the previous record of 983 bears taken in the Southern Zone in 2011.

The record harvest is likely due to a new early bear hunting season that ran from Sept. 6 to Sept. 21 in portions of the Catskills and the western Hudson Valley, DEC officials say.

Catskills hunters in in Delaware, Greene, Schoharie, Sullivan and Ulster counties killed 893 bears in 2014, according to an analysis of the DEC's hunt data by the Watershed Post. In the Catskills, hunters killed 294 bears during the new early season and 599 during the bow hunting, muzzleloading and regular seasons, which occur later in the fall.

The Catskills towns with the highest bear harvests are Hancock, with 34 bears killed; Wawarsing, with 32; Tusten, with 31; Rochester, with 27; and Mamakating, with 24.  Read more