How Jay Ungar wrote "Ashokan Farewell"

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Above: Jay Ungar & Molly Mason perform "Ashokan Farewell."

It took Catskills fiddler Jay Ungar less than an hour to write "Ashokan Farewell," a haunting fiddle tune that has become an iconic folk song covered by legions of fans and memorably used by Ken Burns on the soundtrack of his documentary "The Civil War."

In a story published on Friday, Sept. 25, the Atlantic magazine interviewed Ungar about the origin of the tune, which he wrote in 1982 to commemorate the end of a summer arts camp called Ashokan that he was running with his wife and partner, Molly Mason. (Ungar and Mason still run dance and fiddle camps at the Ashokan Center, in Olivebridge, today.)   Read more

Find the perfect robot at a pop-up shop in Woodstock

Above: Two of Steve Heller's robots welcome visitors to the Fabulous Furniture Pop-Up Shop at 40 Mill Hill Road in Woodstock. Photo by Karen Falch.

It’s a bit like the Prada Shop at Barney’s without all the haute couture garments, fragrances, footwear and handbags.

Instead, Woodstock’s newest boutique has the exclusive flair of a man cave à la Steve Heller, a celebrated local sculptor.

Picture life-sized robots, tabletop hot-rod cars, exquisite mirrors, rustic coffee tables and a stunning collection of far-out, handcrafted sculptures as only the quirky Heller can produce. Heller's wife, Martha Frankel, calls the 800-square-foot shop at 40 Mill Hill Road the “perfect little bonbon in the center of Woodstock.”

Steve Heller’s Fabulous Furniture Pop-Up Shop opened for a five-week stint on Aug. 29 with the aim of “taking the artist’s work to the people rather than taking the people to his work.”  Read more

The 2016 Catskills Food Guide Photo Contest

Above: This photo, of a duck in Parksville, was taken by Chris Graham and won second place in the 2015 Catskills Food Guide Photo Contest.

The contest is now closed. Look for the print 2016 Catskills Food Guide next year for the winners! - Ed. 

It's harvest season, and in the Catskills, the veggies are gorgeous. So are the cows, barns and the farmers themselves. (Just ask Real Simple Magazine, which just ran a photo spread of six women farmers from the region.

That means it's time for our annual Catskills Food Guide Photo Contest, once again sponsored by the Peekamoose Restaurant & Tap Room in Big Indian.   Read more

I am the scarecrow

A John Lennon scarecrow, above, stands watch over Bovina Farm Day on Sunday, Sept. 6, one of the contestants in the festival's scarecrow contest. The Lennon scarecrow didn't win--that honor went to "Edgar Allen Crow," by Marni Greenberg, below.  Read more

Bovina's Esquela is country's “best company band”

Above: Bovina-based Esquela wins first prize at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Photo by Wendy Buerge, via Esquela's Facebook page

Esquela, a rock band based in the Delaware County town of Bovina, took home a national title on Saturday: the best company band in the world.

The band won The PlayOff 2015, a battle-of-the-bands contest sponsored by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Inc. Media that pitted company bands from around the country against each other. 

Half of Esquela's members work at Indiepay, a payroll processor for arts companies that has an office in Delhi. Band founder and bassist John Finn is Indiepay's CEO.   Read more

"Welcome to Kutsher's" plays the Big Eddy Film Festival

At the Big Eddy Film Festival in Narrowsburg next weekend, filmmakers Caroline Laskow and Ian Rosenberg will attend the Catskills premiere of "Welcome to Kutsher's," their documentary about the legendary Borscht Belt resort that inspired the film "Dirty Dancing."

"Welcome to Kutsher's" takes a close look at the last chapter of the 100-year history of Kutsher's Country Club, which was sold and demolished in 2014 to make way for an Ayurvedic wellness center.

The film reminisces about the resort's role as a mainstray of American Jewish culture for an entire generation, and explores how Kutsher's influenced the development of comedy, professional basketball and vacationing.

From the documentary's promo materials:  Read more

Biennial Drum Boogie Festival brings the beat to Woodstock

Above: COBU performing at the 2013 Drum Boogie Festival. Photo courtesy of the Drum Boogie Festival.

It’s one of the oldest truths in music, and maybe in consciousness: Rhythm is an intense natural high, and brings people together like nothing else can. So prepare to be uplifted and moved at the the Woodstock Drum Boogie Festival, happening this Saturday, Sept. 12 at Andy Lee Field.

The festival taps into a rich regional vein of star power. Grammy winner and National Endowment for the Arts fellow Jack DeJohnette will perform with Gambian-born kora drummer Foday Musa Soso and jazz bass player Matt Garrison.

Above: NEXUS perfoming at the 2013 Drum Boogie Festival. Photo courtesy of the Drum Boogie Festival. 

Mandara, a quintet of instrumentalists and vocal artists directed by Valerie Naranjo, a veteran percussionist who has played in the Saturday Night Live Band and in the Lion King orchestra on Broadway, will be joined by dancer Hettie Barnhill as a special guest.

Famed vibes player Joe Locke will be there, as will COBU, a Japanese taiko percussion group. The NYU Steel Drum Orchestra will take you on a voyage to the outer limits of Caribbean steel pans, and Aanadhha with Dibyarka Chatterjee will do likewise in their chosen realm of Indian tabla. You’ll hear American fife and drum and Balinese gongs. Big Takeover will serve up smoldering reggae.

The Drum Boogie happens every other year, and this is the year. Woodstock Chimes founder and CEO Garry Kvistad will be there again jammin’ out with his own band Nexus, a four-virtuoso ensemble that got started with an improv session back in 1971. They’ve since been dubbed “the high priests of the percussion world” by the New York Times.

Kvistad first dreamed up the Drum Boogie in 2008 while brainstorming with New York State Assemblyman Kevin Cahill about how to have some serious fun while raising the profile of local good causes and erasing the lines that separate folks. During the festival's first year, 2009, thousands showed up to catch the rhythm.

We talked with Kvistad about the festival's fourth iteration.

Watershed Post: Why do you think the human urge to beat drums is so universal, and the experience of rhythm so powerful?

Garry Kvistad: Drumming is fairly unique, in that anyone can beat a drum without any training while specialists have taken many styles of drumming to extreme limits of expertise. Everything in our bodies is pulsating, from the tiniest sub-atomic particle to our heartbeats. Rhythm is universal. Percussion is so much more than pulse, however, and the Drum Boogie Festival exposes the audience to a large array of percussion instruments and styles, including melodic percussion played on xylophones and tuned drums.  Read more

Olive gets $150K in grants, just in time for Olive Day

Above: Arm of the Sea Theater performs at Olive Day. Photo courtesy of Mary Ann Shephard.

The Ulster County town of Olive has a lot to celebrate this week.

On Tuesday, Sept. 8, State Senator James L. Seward announced that the town will receive $150,000 in grants to buy new police equipment and to replace the roof of the town highway garage. The grants will help the town make improvements without raising property taxes, Seward said in a press release.

This Saturday, Olive celebrates its 42nd annual Olive Day at Davis Park in West Shokan with a "food and farms" theme. There will be food vendors, dancing and games, and Ben Rounds, The Pontiacs and the Spillway Band will play live. The highlight of the day is a puppet show performance of “The Rejuvenary River Circus” by Arm of the Sea Theater, sponsored by the Olive Free Library.

Olive Day. Saturday, Sept. 12, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Davis Park, West Shokan, Olive.

Festival of Women Writers comes to the Hobart Book Village

Above: The Hobart Festival of Women Writers enters its third year. Photo via  

For a few days each fall, the Delaware County town of Hobart is ground zero for the Festival of Women Writers, a weekend dedicated to female poets, novelists, memoirists and more from the surrounding region and beyond.

Hobart is already steeped in literature: With only about 400 residents, the self-styled Book Village is home to an impressive six bookstores.

That population is expected to nearly double in size this weekend, when dozens of writers and hundreds of attendees will pour into the tiny town for three days of workshops, readings and events.

Now in its third year, the festival is the brainchild of two literary sisters—poet Cheryl Clarke and novelist Breena Clarke. They started the FWW in 2013 with the idea of bringing female writers together from across the Catskills, and from Delaware County specifically.  Read more

Reggae comes to a Bloomville dairy field

Above: Terry Blaine comes to Bloomville during the Dairy Field Music and Arts Festival on Saturday, Sept. 5.

The last place you'd expect to find a reggae festival is Bloomville, a hamlet in the middle of rolling dairy country. Here, you're lucky if you can get a strong radio signal, and if you do, you'll hear country or rock, or maybe bluegrass and folk. Jamaicans in the Catskills are few and far between.

One of them is artist and woodworker Michael Milton, who runs the Turquoise Barn B&B in Bloomville with his wife, Michelle Premura. In 2013, Milton brought a lineup of reggae acts to a field near the barn. The daylong festival was a surprise success, attracting “happy campers dancing barefoot into the small hours,” according to Conde Nast Traveler.

Despite some setbacks--last year's festival was rained out, and one of the organizers is no longer involved--the concept has stuck.  Read more

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