Guide me a river: The art of Catskills wilderness guiding

Longtime Catskills wilderness guide Charles “Sonny” Somelofski has earned a few more gray hairs since this photo was taken — and caught countless more fish. Photo courtesy of Catskill Outdoor Adventures (catskilloutdooradventures.com).

Charles “Sonny” Somelofski of Catskill Outdoor Adventures in Margaretville (catskilloutdooradventures.com), remembers when the licensing process to become an outdoor guide in New York state was a simple paper questionnaire with a $2 fee that asked whether he could swim, handle a boat, and read a map and compass.

“That was it, back then,” Somelofski says. “Bang! I was able to take people out and do it all.”

Today, being a state-licensed outdoor guide requires a bit more: taxable income disclosure forms, a physician’s statement, and certifications in first aid, CPR, and water safety. Those are the just the basics. Guides can be licensed in a number of different categories, ranging from camping and fishing to whitewater rafting and ice climbing, each with different licensing requirements.

The heart of guiding, however, has remained the same: proving to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) that you can reliably take paying customers out into the great outdoors and bring them back again in one piece.  Read more

Cairo man charged with assaults with fist and fireworks

A 20-year-old Cairo man has been charged with assault after allegedly punching one person in the face and dropping lit fireworks down the shirt of another.

Cory M. Thompson was arrested by New York State Police at Catskill following an investigation into events occurring on July 5 at a private residence. 

In a press release dated July 10, New York State Police said that last Saturday, Thompson “repeatedly punched an individual in the face,” leaving the victim with facial fractures and a broken eye socket. That same day, police said, Thompson also dropped lit fireworks down another man’s back, leaving him with several burns from the explosion between his shirt and his back. 

Thompson was charged with second-degree assault — a class D felony — and third-degree reckless assault, a class A misdemeanor.  Read more

Locals brace for Hudson Project music fest

Winston Farm in Saugerties: About to get a lot more populated. Photo from the Hudson Project Facebook page.

Locals are gearing up for traffic, crowds and delays this weekend as the Hudson Project, a new music and arts festival in the tradition of Woodstock, kicks off in Saugerties.  

Legions of hippies and hipsters — an estimated 20,000 a day — will flood 800-acre Winston Farm for the three-day festival, according to a report in the Kingston Daily Freeman.  The farm previously played host to 1994’s reprisal of the famed Woodstock festival, and was the intended site for the original 1969 event before it relocated to Bethel.  

At the helm of Hudson Project is original Woodstock festival co-founder Michael Lang, who told the New York Times that the Project is his attempt at bringing a successful recurring festival to the area.   Read more

State audit finds ORDA in the red

Sign at the entrance of Belleayre Mountain, a state-owned ski center in Highmount that has been run by ORDA since 2012. Photo source: Belleayre's Facebook page.

The regional authority that runs Belleayre Mountain Ski Center in the Catskills, along with Gore and Whiteface in the Adirondacks, has some troubling financial problems, according to a new audit released Wednesday by the New York State Comptroller's Office. 

The audit has been in the works since March of 2013, when state comptroller Thomas DiNapoli announced that his office would be taking a closer look at the authority's finances.

In the audit report (embedded below), DiNapoli found that the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) has racked up $45 million in losses in a three-year period from 2010 to 2013.

The authority took over management of Belleayre in 2012. The mountain was previously run by the state Department of Environmental Conservation. 

The audit found fault with several aspects of ORDA's management of Belleayre. In one instance, auditors wrote, ORDA awarded a contract for ski rental equipment concessions at Belleayre to an outside company without seeking competitive bids. The authority should open up the process to competition, the audit report stated:  Read more

This Weekend: ICE percussionist Nathan Davis at Mount Tremper Arts

Above: Composer Nathan Davis, whose music will be featured at Mount Tremper Arts tomorrow night. Photo courtesy of Mount Tremper Arts. 

This WP Deal is sold out. 

Tomorrow night, the 2014 season at Mount Tremper Arts opens with the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) performing the music of the group's resident percussionist, composer Nathan Davis. 

Davis specializes in the "fragile athleticism of playing" a variety of unusual musical instruments, from bassoons to cell phones. (Here's more on Davis from a 2011 New York Times article.) 

Here's what to expect from the show, from an MTA press release:  Read more

More than a funny girl: "One Night With Fanny Brice" at the Open Eye Theater

Above: "One Night With Fanny Brice" musical director and accompanist Kent Brown, playwright Chip Deffaa, and Patricia Dell starring as Brice.

For a few days in July, the legendary Borscht Belt musical comedian and Ziegfeld Follies superstar Fanny Brice returns to the Catskills -- at least in spirit.

Actress and singer Patricia Dell stars in the upcoming one-woman show “One Night With Fanny Brice,” by playwright Chip Deffaa, staged by Margaretville's Open Eye Theater. In her role as Brice, Dell takes on the indomitable persona of the first female star of the Jewish entertainment circuit, and breathes fresh life into musical classics nearly a century old.

“‘Wow’ was my reaction reading the script,” said Dell. “My only exposure to her was the movie, ‘Funny Girl,’ starring Barbra Streisand. There’s a lot more to her.”  Read more

Advertise in the Catskills Food Guide

Here we go again! We're publishing another edition of the Catskills Food Guide, an annual print publication that comes out every November and is distributed all year in the Catskills and metro-area NY.

The deadline to advertise in the 2015 Food Guide is August 1. Reserve your slot now: contact Julia Reischel at julia.reischel@watershedpost.com or call 845-481-0155. 

More info here.

On the ropes: Sundance Rappel Tower

Photo by Lissa Harris.

Tom Crucet built a 65-foot-tall rappelling tower in Phoenicia because he knew it would be fun. Thirty years later, it still is.

“It’s one of the joys of my life,” says Crucet, who is a lawyer by trade and has been a town justice for 17 years. “I loved doing it when I was in the military.”

Rappelling was just one of the skills Crucet mastered during his tenure as a Green Beret with the U.S. Army’s Special Forces: He also parachutes and scuba dives.

Crucet uses his Sundance Rappel Tower to teach skills to groups of Boy and Girl Scouts, firefighters and other rescue workers, rock climbers and anyone else who wants to learn how to descend a vertical obstacle using ropes.

Open year-round on weekends by appointment only, the tower offers four levels of training to groups of eight to 22 people. The sessions cost $25 per person and last about a half-day. The first part is about 40 minutes of classroom training, and the remainder of the instruction is devoted to practicing skills on the tower.

Some students come for one lesson. Others camp out nearby for a weekend and spend several days honing their skills, Crucet said.  Read more

Here comes the rain again...and wind, too

Look out, Catskills: Yet another round of thunderstorms is taking aim at the region, with the possibility of high winds, damaging hail and even the chance of a tornado. 

As of late Tuesday afternoon, a line of storms is organizing in western New York and Pennsylvania, and moving steadily eastward across the region. A severe thunderstorm watch is currently in effect across Central New York, including Delaware County in the Catskills region, until 8 p.m.

Storm trackers at the National Weather Service caution that there is a slight chance the storms could spawn a tornado or two as they swirl across Central New York. 

The eastern Catskills are not yet under severe weather watch, but thunderstorms are expected this afternoon and evening. Locals should keep an eye on the weather as the storms move eastward.   Read more

Driver in fatal Thruway crash arrested on DWI and homicide charges

The driver of a car that caused a fatal multi-car accident on I-90 on Friday, July 4 was arrested today on charges of vehicular homicide and manslaughter, among other charges. 

The driver, 24-year-old Tyler Pascuzzi, was taken to Albany Medical Center Friday night after he crashed his 2004 Volkswagen GLI into a 2003 Honda Civic, spun out and struck an Old Dominion Freight Lines tractor-trailer. 

The Volkswagen split in two upon hitting the tractor-trailer.

Two passengers in Pascuzzi’s car -- Cody J. Veverka, 23, of South Cairo and Alicia M. Tamboia, 24, of Wingdale -- were ejected from the car and pronounced dead at the scene.

Upon Pascuzzi’s release from the hospital today, he was taken into custody by State Police and charged with the following:  Read more