Rural Intelligence: The Online Magazine for Eastern New York, Western Connecticut and the Southern Berkshires
Thursday, November 23, 2017
 
Search Archives:
Newsletters Signup
Close it
Get The New App!


Newsletters Signup
Close it

RI Archives: Community

View past News articles.

View all past Community articles.


RI on Facebook    RI on Instagram       

Rural Intelligence

Robin Hood Radio

Litchfield App Filler Ad

NECC

Snack And Snuggle At Morgan’s Cat Cafe In Red Hook

By Amy Krzanik

By now, you’re probably familiar with the concept of a cat café, but did you know that we have our very own right in the RI region?

The cat café concept was popularized in Japan in the mid-to-late 2000s, where, due to space constraints, many landlords do not allow renters to own pets. Tokyo is now home to 58 such cafes, where visitors can “rent” time with an animal while enjoying a sip or snack. The past few years have seen the idea adopted by cities throughout the world, including the U.S., where they are especially popular in California and New York.

Morgan’s Cat Café on Market Street in Red Hook is the Hudson Valley’s first cat café and the only vegetarian/vegan one in New York State. The reason for omitting meat from the menu, says director Bobbi Jo Forte is that it “seemed weird to be saving one species and serving another.”

Forte, who has a long history of rescuing and fostering animals, opened Morgan’s right next door to Living Eden, a shop she’s co-owned with Bonnie Schweppe for the past five years. Inside Living Eden, you can find products from local artists, along with items that are fair trade, eco-friendly, cruelty-free, recycled and upcycled. And, before the café opened in July 2016, you could find adoptable kittens there, too.

Forte and her daughter, Morgan, ran a cat rescue out of their home, but wanted a more formal way to offer adoptions. The plan came together due to a series of overlapping events. Forte was diagnosed with a brain tumor and became ill very quickly, and so wanted a legacy project. After she’d successfully gone through radiation, a good friend of hers passed away from cancer. Two days before she died, she told Forte she wished to honor Morgan, and left them a sum of money so that the mother and daughter could create something together. “She said, ‘Morgan is your sidekick and she’s your strength’ and that’s really true,” says Forte. “When people come into the cafe and ask for the boss, I say ‘She’s 11 years old and 4-feet 9-inches and she’s right here.’”

The café offers a menu of Asian-inspired snacks; guacamole, hummus, salads, wraps and “burgers” ranging from $4–$9; coffee, tea and smoothies from $2–$5; and cat-shaped cookies and cupcakes. You can snack while you watch the 11 cats and kittens frolic inside the glass-enclosed area. (The restaurant and play area are separated, because even cat-lovers don’t want hair in their food). A $1 fee gets you entry into the play area to meet the kitties (wash your hands and remove your shoes first). All 11 cats — the café’s limit — have been vetted and are adoptable.

Morgan’s occupies a clean, sunlit space; the snacks are yummy; and they sell humorous gift items that any cat lady would love. But there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes. “It’s a wonderful place for the community to interact with the animals,” says Forte, “but it’s an unbelievable amount of work.” Tasks you don’t see include the physical hands-on rescue work, conducting adoption screenings, and, as anyone with pets knows, an enormous amount of cleaning. Several times a year, it also includes bottle-feeding a litter of kittens around the clock.

With help from volunteers, partner organizations and an advisory board, Morgan’s so far has placed around 100 cats into forever homes. “It’s a rollercoaster,” says Forte. “Some days there are waves and waves of people, and sometimes not as many so the cats just sleep all day.” I’m sure they don’t mind.

Morgan’s Cat Cafe
35 West Market St., Red Hook, NY
Wed–Sat 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Closed Monday and Tuesday
(845) 250-2272 or (845) 475-2619

Enjoy this post? Share it with others.

Posted by Amy Krzanik on 11/21/17 at 03:36 PM • Permalink

10 Things To Love About Pine Plains

By Jamie Larson

Pine Plains seems to emerge out of nowhere. You’re driving through the woods between Dutchess County, N.Y. and Connecticut, and all of a sudden this handsome crossroads community pops up. Though small, Pine Plains has a surprising amount of reasons to visit, from the history to the food to the family farms. While the town may seem out of the way, it’s actually on the way to a lot of places, and a fabulous destination all on its own.

1. Hammertown
What can we say about Hammertown and its incomparable owner, Joan Osofsky, that we haven’t already waxed passionately about? The furnishings and housewares that fill Hammertown’s original location in Pine Plains have, in many ways, come to define the home decor aesthetic of the RI region: rustic yet styled, relaxed yet impeccably designed. Osofsky has literally written the book on this brand of style in Love Where You Live, and posts can’t-miss blogs and recipes on the store’s website. And as for those recipes, Osofsky has a new book, fittingly titled Love Where You Eat. Hammertown is more than a store, it’s a way of life.
3201 Rt. 199, (518) 398-7075

2. The Hudson Company
Refurbished reclaimed wood from dilapidated barns and other old or worn structures has become incredibly sought-after material in the interior design industry. It’s a real diamond in the rough and nobody’s better at sanding a beautiful floorboard out of a gnarled old beam than Pine Plains’ own Hudson Company. They’ve quickly become one of the industry’s biggest players in only a few years. Their success is due to the leadership of owner Jamie Hammel and a precise, efficient and quality-first facility outside of town. We recently wrote about how the company has been growing its profile exponentially, doing work for the Whitney, the High Line and countless other well-known institutions, restaurants and shops in NYC. But they’re also applying their supreme talents to homes around our region. Their mill and showroom is open weekdays and they pride themselves on being accommodating. If you cant find exactly what you’re looking for in stock, they’ll go out and find it — in the woods, a mushroom farm or an old barn – and mill it for you.
2290 NY-199, (845) 848-3040

3. Stissing House
In 1782, just after the end of the Revolution, Captain Cornelius Elmendorph founded a new settlement 15 miles from Washington’s camp as a connecting stop between Connecticut and the Hudson River. The Stissing House was the center of life in the new settlement, hosting gatherings of all kinds including many political meetings. Washington himself came through the notable Inn as did Roosevelt and the Marquis de Lafayette. Today, a beautiful restaurant helmed by husband and wife Patricia and Michel Jean calls the Stissing House home. Its traditional French-inspired dishes fit the historic destination with a peerless pastoral elegance. The amount of history and culinary talent that stews so effortlessly at Stissing House makes it not only the jewel of Pine Plains but one of the top places to visit in all the RI region.
7801 S. Main St., (518)-398-8800

4. Dutch’s Spirits at Harvest Homestead Farms
The fact that the Dutch’s Spirits distillery is located on top of a Prohibition-era bootlegging site is reason enough to head down the dirt road just outside of town to the secluded farm. The company’s namesake and spiritual patriarch, Dutch Schultz, made his stiff moonshine in a large underground concrete bunker. The new owners, which include one of Dutch’s descendants, have built a beautiful facility on top of that bunker to carry on the tradition in the light. The large modern barn is a farmstand and a tasting room, carrying the largest selection we’ve ever seen of New York-produced spirits in a single location. They also offer tours of the historic sites on the property and hold a number of events, especially this time of year. 
98 Ryan Rd., (518)-398-1022

5. Pine Plains Platter
The Platter is the best kind of small community café. They have the staples you expect but at a really high level. The menu is diverse and there are inventive specials that keep folks coming back. The café is owned by Irene and Jack Banning who also run the nearby Black Sheep Hill Farm. The couple hired Pine Plains native Amy Benack-Baden as manager and head chef, and she’s turned the quaint storefront into a delicious, family-friendly destination.
2987 Church St., (518) 398-0500

6. Chaseholm Farm
You may recognize the name Chaseholm from the farm list at the bottom of the menus at many of the best restaurants in the region. The dairy, cheeses and meats being produced by the farm’s grass-fed organic herd are all top quality and have become a staple in locally sourced dining. The multi-generational farm is now run by the brother and sister team of Rory and Sarah Chase. The siblings have kept the farm relevant by embracing modern holistic farming practices and by, above all else, working hard and making some really excellent stuff.
115 Chase Rd., (518) 339-2071

7. Lia’s Mountain View Restaurant
The Mirto family came to New York from Sicily in the ‘60s and, after moving upstate to Pine Plains, opened a classic Italian family restaurant with a menu as big as its breathtaking view of Stissing Mountain. It’s a true family affair as Lia, her siblings and their children all take part in running the restaurant. Brother Nick, sister Maria and Lia all have different duties in the kitchen. Along with the innumerable flavorful dishes the two sisters each make a cheesecake, so you can get a slice of each and let them know whose is better. In this healthy family competition, we win.
7685 NY-82, (518) 398-7311

8. Stissing Mountain
Pine Plains’ mountain isn’t just for admiring from afar. If you’re interested in a not-too-long yet intense hike there’s a great trail off Lake Road. The effort is well worth it, as the trail has a payoff in the form of a 90-foot firetower. Thirty feet taller than your average tower, it’s quite the ascent, especially if it’s swaying on a windy day. As you can imagine, there’s a spectacular 360-view from the top that goes on for miles. If you’ve got the gumption, climbing Stissing is worth the exertion.
Trail head located at 7 Lake Rd.

9. Pine Plains Memorial Hall
In many ways, this historic theater is the heart of Pine Plains. The Memorial Hall sits in the center of town, and for generations entertained its citizens, first with plays and later with films. Then for decades it sat dormant and crumbling. But it has now become a symbol of the town’s rebirth, and an energized grass roots effort to restore the facility is well underway. This summer they celebrated a huge fundraising milestone with a ground-breaking and community day that seemed to include every resident. There’s a lot of work to be done, but the energy behind the restoration of the Hall seems unstoppable.
2946 Church St., (518) 738-3409

10. The Inn at Pine Plains
With eight uniquely appointed rooms, the Inn at Pine Plains is the place to stay when exploring Dutchess County. Elegant, clean and accommodating, the Inn even has a signature breakfast sandwich as part of its locally sourced continental breakfast. The Inn is a continuation of Pine Plains’ history, a way-stop for travelers who soon find themselves entranced by the town.
3036 Church St., (518) 771-3117

Enjoy this post? Share it with others.

Posted by Jamie Larson on 09/25/17 at 08:10 AM • Permalink

10 Things To Love About Washington Depot, CT

By Christine Adams Beckett

As its name suggests, The Depot was once a major hub of the Shepaug Valley Railroad when the area was bustling in Industrial Age commerce, but has now evolved into a community of sophisticated permanent and weekend residents whose mark is well observed in the town’s eateries, shops and cultural institutions. Long a favorite amongst New Yorkers yearning for more bucolic countryside with an air of chic sophistication, Washington Depot provides it all: beautiful farms, cottages, country estates with their accompanying breathtaking views and all the diversions to satisfy the most cosmopolitan tastes, as well as the simple joys that come with the changing, seasonal landscape.

1.  The Hickory Stick Bookshop is a mainstay in town, and has been for over 70 years. Regular readings by local authors dot the calendar, and once boasted William Styron and Arthur Miller on its docket. For my family, it is a destination on a rainy day, when a hike in Steep Rock is not ideal, when we can browse the handsomely displayed stacks and talk books with the staff, which collectively has 100 years of experience, according to the store’s website.

2. And speaking of Steep Rock Association, there are three trails in Washington, one of which, Hidden Valley, is within walking distance to the Depot. The Trust was established by renowned architect Ehrick Rossiter in 1889, when he discovered plans to clearcut trees in an adjacent property while breaking ground for his own country home. The Association now boasts more than 2700 acres of hiking trails with sweeping views and dramatic features, like the “clamshell,” an old quartz quarry and the retired rail bed of the Shepaug line, including its tunnel which might inspire you to come up with your own life metaphor.

3. The architecture of the Depot’s businesses and cultural institutions, not to mention the private homes that spread out farther and farther as you move out of the town center, is inspiring. From the Greek Revival Gunn Memorial Library and Bryant Memorial Hall, to the quaint stretch of storefronts spilling petunias from their window boxes, to the stately summer homes of the turn-of-the-last century, renovated mills and rolling farms, the area’s structures reflect the intangible: this is a community of people who appreciate art, literature, natural beauty and history. 

Note: For an insider’s glimpse of Ehrick Rossiter’s legacy, which remains in the area’s stately homes, there’s a book devoted to the man’s work: Rossiter: Country Houses of Washington, Connecticut.

4. The Judy Black Memorial Park and Gardens are a testament to local business people and citizens’ thoughtful repurposing of vacant buildings. Once a gas station that long sat abandoned, The Park and Gardens is now a stylish center for residents to enjoy cultural programming, a weekly farmers’ market (run by a local whose family can trace their lineage back hundreds of years), movie nights and community gatherings. Most appealing: what was once an eyesore is now a green space open to all, providing a “welcome to the Depot” for neighbors and visitors, and an enticing swath of land that my children love. Area artist Mark Mennin’s sculpted bench, which flanks the lawn, is a conversation starter as well: a long carved piece of marble that he somehow made look plush (and is)!

5. The Washington Arts Association is another long-honored cultural institution in town, offering exhibits by emerging and established artists and classes for all mediums of visual art. You can pop in anytime and see something that will inspire you, but a favorite of mine is the annual student exhibition, where my family and I can stand agape before evidence of a neighbor’s talent. At Christmastime there also is a fabulous gift fair, a relic of which still decorates my 18-year-old son’s bookcase: a hand-carved wooden toy truck cum rough-hewn piece of folk art.

6. The eateries. Whether you crave local organic fare in a casual setting that feels like glamping (Hidden Valley Eatery), long-established gourmet surrounded by kitchenware for sale that make anyone want to viens à table (The Pantry), or upscale pub fare which seems to attract the arts crowd on Tuesday nights (The GW Tavern), the Depot is your place. Marty’s Café is open seven days a week for a sandwich and a great cup of coffee if the quiet of the surrounds leaves you craving for quick social contact. If dining in is your thing, come to Judy Black Park (see #4) on Saturday morning to buy your own locally grown produce for all that you need to entertain your guests.

7. The Gunn Memorial Library is another established cultural institution in the Depot that offers all of what you’d expect: book discussions, story hours for children, a local history research room, any title you’d like to borrow. But its annual fundraising events have become ones to plan for, including the Library Luminaries event, where local talent is celebrated and toasted at small dinner parties throughout the town, preceded by a cocktail in the gorgeous stone Greek Revival building. In the fall, it’s the Design and Antiques Show, which offers booths from local dealers and all the treasures they have to offer. The venue for this event is the Washington Primary School, which turns its gymnasium into a chic exhibition hall on Columbus Day weekend — the unofficial start of leaf-peeping season — when the brilliance of the foliage will leave you in awe.

8. The Gunn Historic Museum will put the Depot into a clearer perspective for you. Yes, as is suggested by the name, the General did sleep here (and the tavern that hosted him down the road still stands as a private home), but the Depot’s history holdings are far more interesting than the expected Revolutionary New England olde pewter mug. At one time, Washington was mostly a farming community, but the power of the Shepaug later turned the industry turbine of the age: mills, ironworks, factories and quarries. After the advent of different forms of commerce, the town — with its proximity to New York City, its distinct architecture, natural beauty and unique community — reinvented itself.  See it all for yourself in the newly installed Washington History Room at the Gunn, located in a bequeathed Colonial home that was renovated this year. 

Photo: Jim Ross

9. The annual traditions. Christmas fairs and fall antique shows aside, there are more campy aspects to the Depot, like the annual Memorial Day celebration which will leave you looking for Normal Rockwell and his easel, and which you’d expect from a town that hosted and is named for the Man Himself. Think memorial wreaths tossed into the Shepaug in memory of our fallen naval veterans, readings of “In Flanders’ Fields” by a local veteran, and parades led by antique fire trucks and lined by treat-wielding children with flushed faces. 

10. Grace Mayflower Inn & Spa. For those with the most discriminating tastes, the elegant Grace Mayflower is situated on 58 picturesque acres and surrounded by an additional 3,000 acres of nature preserve just outside the Depot.

Photo: Serge Detalle

A member of the Relais & Châteaux association of the world’s most enticing hotels, the Grace Mayflower also offers a luxurious and world-renowned spa with all the expected services, as well as a few unexpected ones like meditation, sound therapy and Blue Heron Insight, helping guests “realize their strengths and motivation” thereby strengthening one’s interpersonal relationships. For locals, it’s a special venue for cocktail hour in the tap room or dinner in the elegant dining room.

Enjoy this post? Share it with others.

Posted by Lisa Green on 09/02/17 at 10:36 AM • Permalink

Paws Up If You Want To Dance At Jacob’s Pillow

By Lisa Green

Despite the fact that I took ballet, tap and jazz dance lessons from age toddler (solo performance at age two, thank you very much) through post-college years, I’d be too self conscious now to take one of Jacob’s Pillow’s community dance classes. But with my four-legged sidekick as my dance partner, I’d be more inclined to take part.

So I was intrigued to hear that, in celebration of National Dog Day on Saturday, Aug. 26, Jacob’s Pillow in Becket, Mass. — which always welcomes canines on its campus — is inviting dogs (along with their people) to the dance. Partnering with the Berkshire Humane Society (BHS), Jacob’s Pillow says it continues to “expand the parameters of who gets to dance.” Why not Buddy, Daisy or Champ?

Hosting the dance-with-your-dog activity is Elizabeth Johnson, the Pillow’s Dance Exchange Artist, whose job is to engage individuals and communities in dance making and creative practices. She’s also an experienced dog dancer and will lead participants and their leashed canines through a series of simple and fun movements: making patterns, practicing gestures, and showing off tricks. After a 45-minute practice session, the performers will demonstrate what they’ve learned. No experience is needed; just be a good pet parent and make sure your dog is comfortable with loud noises and being around other dogs (and they must be leashed at all times).

Canine choreography is just one aspect of the event; a host of vendors (including local pet stores, Tractor Supply Company, Annie Selke Co., Big Y and Price Chopper) will be on site, and prizes will be raffled off. While the event is free, Jacob’s Pillow encourages visitors to make a donation to the BHS or bring items off the Humane Society’s donation wish list.

Whether you have a pawtner or not, this is a day to revel in the delights of dance, dogs and Jacob’s Pillow, and to recognize the fantastic work the Berkshire Humane Society does.

Jacob’s Pillow Dog Dance
Saturday, Aug. 26.
Class begins at 11 a.m.
RSVP here.
(413) 243-9919, Ext. 165

Enjoy this post? Share it with others.

Posted by Lisa Green on 08/21/17 at 10:14 AM • Permalink

Historic Hudson Has 10 Million Reasons To Celebrate

By Jamie Larson

Historic Hudson already would’ve had a lot to celebrate at their upcoming Drinks on the Waterfront party at the Dunn Warehouse Site on Friday, Sept. 1, as the Hudson, New York organization brings attention to one of the city’s most visible abandoned historic structures right in the center of the Riverfront Park. But then, on Aug. 1, New York State awarded Hudson a $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant to help economic development at the waterfront and the surrounding neighborhood.

“It really gives us something to celebrate,” said Alan Neumann, president of Historic Hudson, “especially for the future of the Bridge District. Which is everything below Second Street.”

The waterfront event was initially planned to fundraise for the busy organization and create more interest in the preservation of Dunn’s, which had already received a $500,000 structural stabilization grant in January.

While the former warehouse may not be the most refined historic structure in Hudson, it is one of the only remnants (along with the Basilica) of Hudson’s industrial past and its location makes it ideal for connecting new development at the waterfront to the city’s iconic historic character. According to a survey done by the National Register of Historic Places in 1985 (credit to Gossips of Rivertown for sourcing the document), the building was constructed in 1850, as the Hudson and Boston Railroad Shop.

Once used to accommodate large machinery, Dunn’s big bay doors and large open interior may soon be developed into a food hub and restaurant that can both provide affordable food to the neighborhood — currently a food desert — and an eatery for anyone visiting the park. Every project currently outlined in the proposal is just that, a proposal, and will need to go through a public approval process, but there is little doubt Dunn’s will be a big part of future development. Other proposed projects include expansion of Basilica Hudson, support for existing light industry, assistance for an incoming hotel, business incubators, improved pedestrian access to the waterfront and much more.

“Let’s imagine a beautiful and productive future for this city-owned site,” Neumann said. “We need people to come down to the waterfront and have a glass of wine and imagine the future. We need to have a historic anchor.”

The benefit is $35 and includes food from Talbott & Arding Cheese and Provisions, and wine from Hudson Wine Merchants featuring vintages from the Blue Danube Wine Company. All are central European wines that Neumann says will really surprise people. There will also be a silent auction of historic photographs of the city.

“It’s of primary importance that Historic Hudson keeps its voice strong to preserve what’s quirky and historically important,” Neumann said. “It’s what makes Hudson distinctive and we need to address that as development moves forward. This matters.”

Some Fresh Intelligence About The Grant

Reactions to the grant around town were extremely positive by and large — but Hudson has a long history of justified skepticism about development projects, and the grant application was quickly dissected. While this civic ferocity can sometimes stymie officials, it is one of the key reasons Hudson has been able to maintain so much of the historic character that makes the city a draw. Hudson Development Corporation Executive Director Sheena Salvino, who led the creation of the grant proposal, stressed that no project has been approved and $300,000 of the grant is set aside to hire a planner to shepherd the projects forward the right way. 

“The overarching goal for the narrative we submitted to get the grant was to build a bridge between past and present,” Salvino said. “We stressed the role of historic buildings and how historic sites and things like landscaping promote economic development. Our proposal was to show that we were going to accelerate job growth at every level and create an ecosystem for that growth within the district. In our application we went across the entire spectrum of what’s going on down there.”

One aspect of that spectrum is troubling to residents familiar with the 20-plus years of community opposition to plans for expanding the cement business at Hudson’s deep water port. From blocking the creation of a massive factory by St Lawrence Cement decades ago, to the current opposition to the proposed creation of a haul road by the dock’s current owner A. Colarusso & Son, the community has made its opposition to expansion of operations pretty clear. So, these residents were disheartened to find in the proposal a sentence claiming, “...City officials and neighboring business owners support the expansion of Colarusso.”

The sentence is a bruise in an otherwise shiny apple. Salvino was quick to admit that the statement was a misrepresentation of public opinion and a mistake for which she takes responsibility.

“We did not work with Colarusso. Everyone knows there is a community issue around this. From our perspective, Colarusso has a 100-year history in the city and they are an example of the type of industry currently operating at the waterfront. They invested seven million dollars in the purchase of the port and we needed to show the state examples of extensive investment. It was recommended to us by the Empire State Development office that it is a part of the waterfront so it should be included, whether it ends up in the final plan or not.

“Was that sentence the best way to put it? No, it wasn’t,” Salvino continued. “The grant writers didn’t have the background on the history of the dispute and I didn’t catch it in the editing process, and I’m sorry about that. My job is about moving things forward.”

Other skepticism of the proposal comes from the waterfront district’s large minority and low-income population. There is concern that economic development in their neighborhood means the further gentrification of a city already deeply segregated along racial and economic lines. Residents hope the final plan will address the needs of the entire community. Salvino says job creation for all is the core of the project’s mission.

In total, the grant is a major win for Hudson and officials have a rare opportunity to accelerate growth in a city already well on the upswing. Good thing there’s a party coming up where you can raise a glass to what’s historic — and what’s to come — at the waterfront.

Drinks on the Waterfront
Friday, Sept. 1, 4-7 p.m.
The Dunn Warehouse Yard at the corner of Broad St. & Water St., Hudson, NY
Tickets: $35 online, $40 at the door

Enjoy this post? Share it with others.

Posted by Jamie Larson on 08/14/17 at 08:38 AM • Permalink

Great Barrington Gears Up For Another Berkshire BikeNFly

By Lisa Green

From just about any vantage point, Berkshires views are pretty gorgeous. On Saturday, Aug. 19, the Berkshire BikeNFly presents an opportunity to marvel at the mountains, forests, farmland and rivers from two perspectives: via bicycle or from the air, aloft in a plane, helicopter or hot air balloon.

What began as a fly-in at the Great Barrington airport to raise funds for the Great Barrington Rotary Club has grown to involve a day of bicycle riding, and a celebration of aviation and community spirit. This year’s event will begin with a ride of your choice — 20, 35 or 52 miles — that pedals off at 9 a.m., beginning and ending at the airport. The preregistration fee (by Aug. 18) is $40 and the first 100 riders to register receive a BikeNFly t-shirt.

It’s a popular ride; the bike event has grown each year says John Benedict, a co-chair (along with Richard Stanley and Mark DeCelle) of the 6th annual Great Barrington, Mass. event that’s become a destination for cyclists and those passionate about planes. The first year, about 80 cyclists showed up, and last year there were nearly 200. It draws people from all over and, with three different routes, Benedict insists anybody can do it (although, this being the Berkshires, you can’t get away from hills). Each course is well marked and color coded. The Boy Scouts are tasked with giving out food and water.

As riders make their way back, the airport comes to life with plane, helicopter and hot air balloon (tethered) rides, paragliding and remote-controlled plane demonstrations, plenty of food and craft vendors, and live music performances. Jeff Lenosky, a mountain biker known as the “Trail Boss” who holds the world record for bunny hopping (the cycling skill, not the dance) will perform two shows in which he exhibits his prowess.

Proceeds from the BikeNFly benefit a wide range of worthy Rotary charities, including elderly services, the Railroad Street Youth Project, the International Youth Exchange and scholarships.

And although it’s a local event on behalf of a local organization, about half of the participants, bicyclists and pilots alike, come from outside Berkshire County.

“We have one person who flies in with a fold-up bicycle in his plane,” says Benedict. “He’s a true bike-and-fly guy.”

Berkshire BikeNFly
Saturday, Aug. 19, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Great Barrington Airport, 71 Egremont Plain Rd., Great Barrington, MA
Ride begins at 9 a.m. Pre-register online.
Registration fee is $40 in advance; $50 day of event.

Enjoy this post? Share it with others.

Posted by Lisa Green on 08/06/17 at 08:29 PM • Permalink

In General: 10 Country Stores in the Rural Intelligence Region

By Nichole Dupont

If there is one thing the RI region takes pride in…great pride, actually…it’s the plethora of truly charming general stores that dot the back roads and villages of historic, sometimes sleepy towns. In these gems, visitors can find wonderful baked goods and fresh food, unique (even odd) gifts, specialty groceries and loyal locals. These stores are community touchstones that are as timeless as the towns they inhabit. 

Monterey General Store This creaky-floored historic building in the tiny town center of Monterey, Mass. has changed hands a few times, but its charm (and coffee) has not suffered in the transition. Now under the stewardship of Scott Edward Cole, the store/café — right on the Konkapot River — offers pantry staples, baked goods, delicious breakfast plates and sandwiches, and unexpected items like a full array of shaving products for men, intoxicating scented candles and curated wines. All within the walls of a mercantile building that dates back to 1780.

Becket General Store & Café
Right in the heart of the Berkshires’ remotest rabbit hole, this Main Street store is round-the-clock food heaven, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Chef Heather Anello and Kerry Willig cook up home fries, rodeo burgers and enchiladas all day to appreciative customers who no longer have to brave a 40-minute sojourn to get a pizza or a bottle of wine.

Hillsdale General Store 
This big, airy space is home to just about everything, except a full kitchen. (But don’t worry, if you’re hungry, just walk around back to Cross Roads Food Shop for some serious and simple, farm-y fare.) The Hillsdale General Store is a mercantile museum, complete with sparkly barware and other house items, hefty aprons and gloves for serious builders and gardeners, vintage-style games for children and antique collectibles behind a glass case. Upstairs, an emporium of furniture, art and stationery draws shoppers into an old-timey world ruled by fine linen and total nostalgia.

Old Chatham Country Store and Café 
A village landmark in the Hudson Valley, this charming “OC” destination is an art gallery, grocery store, and breakfast, lunch and take-out (on the weekends) hotspot. On Friday evenings, it transforms into a romantic bistro serving a simple menu. OC offers a great atmosphere, not to mention specialty cheeses and pints of Jeni’s ice cream.

Berkshire General Store 
Located on Pittsfield’s main drag, the Berkshire General Store, while still relatively new to the North Street scene, has already become a staple in the urban shuffle. This store has everything, including coveted daily soup and sandwich specials (including a famous clam chowder and a killer chili), ridiculous sweet treats, 99-cent coffee, T-shirts and memorabilia, toys and every other imaginable thing.

The Southfield Store 
You could almost miss this place if it weren’t for the fact that there are often cars lined up here for Sunday brunch. Specifically for the irresistible eggs Benedict, fluffy crème fraiche stuffed omelets and fantastic coffee. Not to mention a dedicated dinner crowd drawn to savory pork belly and grilled octopus. The Southfield Store is an extension of The Old Inn on the Green, and offers the same attention to food detail and memorable palate experience. The high-ceilinged store contains whole cases and shelves of homemade pastries and sweet things — thick cookies, lemon pound cake, croissants — and on any given Sunday, is inhabited by folks in their Sunday best, as well as sod-spackled farmers and outdoor folks ready for a Bloody Mary.

Salisbury General Store & Pharmacy 
This chock-full mercantile and full-service pharmacy has been in business since 1935. Plan on spending a good 45 minutes, at least, perusing the shelves of fragrant soaps and toiletries — including some favorites from France — and quirky retro-style linens and homeopathic remedies. This store in Connecticut’s quiet Northwest Corner is worth the long stop and, between party favors, artisan pottery and hilarious greeting cards, you will not leave empty-handed.

Blue Door Market & Café 
One word: Pie. Another word: Also pie. The Blue Door is a hidden gem in farm country (i.e. Sheffield, Mass.) that serves up great sandwiches, including a famous breakfast sandwich, and generous baked goods for the local work crowd as well as for folks just passing through. In addition to the hearty deli menu, the little-market-that-can also offers fresh produce, craft wine and beer, ice cream, the daily news from many outlets, and indoor and outdoor seating. It’s a quiet hangout, mostly because customers are too busy gawking and or eating to make much noise.

Charles H. Baldwin & Sons 
The overwhelming aroma of baking extracts like vanilla and almond saturate the air and the plank floors of this 125-year-old West Stockbridge, Mass. institution. In addition to the vast offerings of extracts, in amber apothecary bottles of all shapes and sizes, Baldwin’s carries snarky Blue Q gifts for every occasion, 10-cent candies, fine chocolate, flavored table syrups, retro toys and seasonal gifts. It’s an authentic trip down memory lane, and one worth taking.

Store at the Five Corners 
At the junction of Routes 7 and 43, right in the heart of Berkshire County’s “North Country,” sits this literal oasis of gourmand treats and truly beautiful gifts (not to mention specialty foods). The French influence is undeniable, with chambray-linen aprons, rustic cheeseboards, crusty breads served with butter and jam, and delicate macarons and meringues. A long farm table with two benches on either side encourages total strangers to sidle up next to one another and enjoy the smells of high-quality teas and coffee, handmade soaps, and one-of-a-kind cheeses.

Enjoy this post? Share it with others.

Posted by Nichole on 05/01/17 at 02:16 PM • Permalink

Act Now! Participation Workshops: Civics 101 In One Day Or Less

Back when civics classes were a regular part of the public school package, we learned not to take our democracy for granted, but there seemed little reason to take that notion to heart. Things are different now, and while we have been slapped awake and propelled into action, we find ourselves in need of coaching. What exactly are our rights, and how do we best make our voices heard?

Those who want a citizen’s refresher course can attend the Civic Participation Workshops at Berkshire Community College on Saturday, April 1. The Four Freedoms Coalition, in partnership with Berkshire Community College, is holding a day of free, non-partisan advocacy workshops, with a mission to boost the confidence of budding (and veteran) citizen activists.

The idea for the trainings came from Becky Meier, who works with adult learners in the English As A Second Language program at BCC’s South County campus. Inspired by other communities doing similar programs, she brought the idea to the Four Freedoms Coalition, an organization with which she was involved.

“Lots of people have become reenergized and politicized, on both ends of the political spectrum,” she says. “I kept hearing people say they were confused about what to do. They weren’t sure how to write letters, or they were hesitant about making phone calls. Some don’t know who their elected officials are. Something is holding people back. I realized we needed a basic civics course.”

Workshops will cover a range of topics: how to write a letter to the editor, call your legislator, use social media effectively, advocate on the local, state and national levels, and how to run for office (or help someone else to). Among the people running the workshops will be Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer, State Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier, and local community activists Shirley Edgerton, Sherwood Guernsey and Megan Whilden. All are volunteering their time.

Meier stresses that this is a nonpartisan event. Everyone is welcome and can choose to stay for an hour or the day.

“Hopefully, this is just the beginning,” she says. “If it’s successful, we’ll see what people are interested in, and continue to do other workshops.”

For more information and to register, click here, or call Becky Meier at (518) 781-4866.

Civic Participation Workshops  
Saturday, April 1, 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Berkshire Community College
1350 West St., Pittsfield, MA

Enjoy this post? Share it with others.

Posted by Lisa Green on 03/19/17 at 12:41 PM • Permalink

Members with Benefits: The Rest Of The Region

By Jamie Larson

Last week we explored the benefits of becoming a member of some of the Berkshires’ cultural institutions. The rest of our region, Columbia County, Litchfield County and Northern Dutchess County, is likewise resplendent with arts organizations worth joining. So here, again, we enumerate a few more of the perks of patronage around the region. The list of membership benefits to follow, like last week’s, is exemplative rather than comprehensive to encourage you to get involved. If we could, we’d join them all.

The Hudson Opera House, recently renamed Henry Hudson Hall, is about to enter one of the most exciting chapters in its long and storied history with the completion of a massive renovation and restoration project. The performance hall will be officially unveiled to members and donors at the Proprietors Ball April 22. Becoming a Friend of the Opera House ($50-$1,000) entitles you to discounts and access to special events. 

Become a member of the Opera House’s new Proprietors Association to become even more immersed in the future of the reinvigorated venue. At the Bronze level ($1,500) members receive recognition, an invitation for two to the president’s cocktail party, two tickets to the Proprietors Ball and advance notice with patron priority seating to all special events and performances. The Silver level ($3,000) gets you six tickets to the ball, and the Gold level ($5,000) entitles you to a table for eight at the ball and a seat-naming opportunity in the restored performance hall. Platinum donors ($10,000+) receive a table for ten at the ball, two seat naming opportunities, their name on the wall in the Center Hall Gallery and the opportunity to host an opening night performance followed by a reception with the artist.

Frederic Church’s Olana has breathtaking views, amazing architecture, engaging programing and excellent parties. Basic membership ($50 for one, $75 for a family or $25 for students and teachers) comes with unlimited free admission to the main house and walking historic landscape tours, a 15-percent discount on purchases from the Olana Museum Store, free or discounted admission to most educational programs and invitations to exclusive members-only exhibition previews and events. Slightly higher but still very affordable levels ($125-$500) include discounted summer party tickets, increasing numbers of unlimited guest passes, invites and extra tickets to members-only events.

Court Hall Circle members ($1,000) also receive a behind-the-scenes tour of the main house and Frederic Church’s designed landscape for up to five guests. Those who join the Bell Tower Circle ($5,000) are offered a private sunset wine-and-cheese gathering at a “special location” at Olana for up to 12 guests. Who knows where the Bell Tower Circle’s special location might be?

PS21, like the Opera House, is undergoing some major facilities upgrades that will have a huge positive impact on programming. The new indoor-outdoor theater will allow the organization to operate year round while maintaining the summer feel to which audiences are accustomed. Members ($40 for individuals, $25 for students, $60 for couples and $100 for 4 friends) receive discounted ticket prices. A Sustainer ($500) gets all admissions at the member price. A Samaritan ($1,000) also gets priority seating and the ability to sponsor specific events. Donors at the Sponsor level ($2,500) receive two full season passes and a discount on facility rentals.

The Spencertown Academy’s programing would be well worth supporting on its own, but the Academy also hosts one of our favorite literary events of the year, the three-day Festival of Books. Memberships are extremely affordable (student $20, individual $45, couple $80, household $100). Donors receive discounted tickets to Academy-produced programs, the opportunity to participate in an annual members-only art exhibit and an array of season-specific special members’ promos at annual events.

Basilica Hudson’s donor benefits reflect the spirit of the venue’s eclectic programming, focusing around the 24-Hour Drone event. Underwriting an hour of the Drone ($100) includes 1 ticket and a free coffee. Underwrite an artist performance ($250) and get 2 tickets, a free Drone survival kit and lots of coffee. Underwrite an ensemble’s performance ($500) and also receive a limited edition 24-Hour Drone poster designed by AJ Annunziata.

Additionally, make a gift of $500 or more to Basilica and they will engrave your name (or short phrase of your choice) on a plaque and affix it to one of the iconic hodgepodge of Hudson-made and salvaged chairs in the Basilica’s theater space.

The Fisher Center at Bard and its lineup of SummerScape programming and Spiegeltent events are a vital part of regional artistic life. Friends ($75) receive access to tickets before the general public, invitations to season previews and open house events, a 10-percent discount on Spiegeltent dining, a 20-percent discount on Fisher Center merchandise and the ability to reserve up to 4 complimentary tickets for the film series. Supporters ($150) are also welcome to a behind-the-scenes tour of the Fisher Center. Sponsors ($300) get invitations to opening night parties.

Subsequent membership levels see even more benefits before entering the Patron level ($1,500) where members receive access to the best seats and personalized ticket handling through the Patron Priority Line and access to the Bard Music Festival Patron’s Lounge at Olin Hall. At the Producer level ($2,500), you and a guest are invited to an exclusive pre-performance dinner, and at the Director level ($5,000) receive reserved VIP parking for all events at the Fisher Center and an invitation for two to an intimate dinner with a performer, creator or scholar.

Photo: Buck Lewis

 

The New York Stage and Film Festival at Vassar’s Powerhouse Theater is an audience member’s dream put on by an organization whose members include many of the stars and creators behind the work celebrated at the event. Joining the festival’s Producer’s Circle ($1,000 or above) invites you to join an informal group of active supporters, and makes you a part of the NYSAF community. Members have close contact with the artists and staff and get behind-the-scenes access to the organization.

All members ($100) of the Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck are recognized by name in the lobby and receive a complimentary ticket. Become a Director ($250) and receive two comped tickets to any of the theater’s great productions. Producers ($500) are invited to the VIP opening night reception. Angels ($1,000+) receive four tickets and get to attend a rehearsal.

The Millerton Moviehouse shows a lot more than just blockbusters. On any given night you can catch the best of independent film, live theater broadcasts, gallery exhibitions, forums and more. Member support allows the Moviehouse the flexibility to support a wide range of expression. A Silver membership ($60 for individuals, $100 for dual) means $2 off movie tickets, 1 free movie ticket when joining (2 if dual), invitations to special member events, discounts at local shops and restaurants and reciprocal membership discounts at Art House theaters nationwide. At the Gold level ($100/$175) members get an additional free ticket per person and $5 off all special event tickets.

The Sharon Playhouse membership provides half of the organization’s funding, making membership at any level vital to their continued success. Become a Partner ($500) and you’re invited to all Mainstage opening night receptions. The Playhouse’s Angel Program ($1,000+) provides members with a complimentary cocktail before any Mainstage production, a pair of complimentary premium seats to a production of your choosing and access to “Angel-only” special events. Platinum Angels ($2,500) also receive an invitation to observe an hour of auditions in NYC or Connecticut and two premium seats to all Mainstage productions. Enter the Director’s Circle ($5,000) and you have premium seats at the Mainstage and Stage II plus two tickets to the annual Spotlight Gala and an invitation to attend the first rehearsal of a production of your choosing.

Enjoy this post? Share it with others.

Posted by Jamie Larson on 03/13/17 at 08:52 AM • Permalink

Fulfill Your Role In The Arts: Become A Member

By Jamie Larson

Now, as you’re receiving seasonal brochures to the region’s arts organizations, is perhaps the best time of year to consider becoming more than just a visitor to these institutions. Consider membership. Your support is vital to the enduring legacy of the museums, theaters and sites that comprise regional culture, so they’ve designed membership benefits that offer more than just a tote bag. Most organizations have curated benefits packages that foster a community around the institution, turning audience members into contributors and, at some levels, even collaborators.

We’ve done the homework for you on some of benefits available to members at the Berkshire’s preeminent arts venues, and we encourage you to pick one (or more) to champion.

Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, is the premiere performance space of our region. As such, the membership levels are significant, starting at Friend ($100), which includes the opportunity to order tickets early, a 10-percent discount at the Glass Houses and Symphony Shop, Talks & Walks advance registration, and discount admission for most Tanglewood Music Center Fellows’ recitals, chamber music performances, Festival of Contemporary Music performances and more.

In between Friend and the Koussevitzky Society Virtuoso membership level ($5,000) which includes all benefits plus an individually specific all-access experience, is a long list of benefits worth exploring. At the Advanced Ticket level ($500) you receive free admission for two to both Friends-only symphony working rehearsals. Join the Tent Club ($750) and receive dining privileges at the Tent and a season parking pass. Highwood Club members ($1,500) get additional donor-exclusive experiences and dining club privileges at Seranak (the former home of conductor Serge Koussevitsky) as well as a closer parking space. From there, higher levels of donation allow members to interact directly with musicians and even the opportunity to name a BSO Prelude concert performed during one BSO Shed performance.

MASS MoCA provides its individual members ($65) unlimited admission to the gallery as well as exhibition opening events, plus purchasing discounts at the museum shop, café and nearby Porches Inn. The dual/family memberships (starting at $95) cover admission for two and children under 18. The Contributor level ($200) grants all the same plus free admission to the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. The Director’s Forum level ($1,000) has a lot of value: you can bring four guests free to the museum and openings. Higher donation levels allow members to include even more friends and family in these and more museum activities for free, which seems an excellent way to not only support but expand the community around the unique museum. 

At The Clark Art Institute, an individual membership of just $65 gets you unlimited year-round admission, access to members-only exhibition previews and events, discounted tickets to concerts, films, public talks and other special events, as well as discounts at the museum store and café.

Higher levels of donation get members complimentary admission for increasing numbers of guests as well as invitations to events like the Clark Society dinner, events around and about exhibitions and the museum’s programming, and participation in the North American Reciprocal Museum program and the Reciprocal Organization of Associated Museums.

For dance lovers, Jacob’s Pillow is as good as it gets. Memberships start at just $50 and already includes invitations to free members-only events. The acclaimed venue has many benefits that focus on providing personal connection to performances and performers. At the $250 level you get your first invitation to a Saturday evening cast party and higher levels mean more exclusive invites to to intimate Creative Residency showings ($500), all Saturday parties and personal guided tours ($1,000).

Members of the Ted Shawn Circle ($2,000 to $10,000) are invited to all Ted Shawn events, the annual Visionary Leaders event, a morning talk series with the director of preservation, and observation of select rehearsals. Those fortunate enough to be able to donate beyond $25,000 get to sponsor parties and an opening night performance as well as a number of select VIP perks. 

The Norman Rockwell Museum is a celebration of an icon who captured life in the present while looking forward to a better America. Membership to the museum begins at $50 and a family membership for two adults and four children is only $75. At the $150 level members get admission privileges to more than 800 North American Reciprocal Museums (NARM). Benefits at increasingly higher levels include two unlimited guest passes, special invitations to exclusive parties and learning opportunities, private collection tours and a lunch with the director or curator of the museum.

Berkshire Theatre Group members at the introductory level ($50) receive first option ticket purchase privileges with season announcements and a 20-percent discount on BTG gift items. Subsequent levels add complimentary tickets and theater tours. At the $1,000 membership level you’re invited to the President’s Circle Supper and receive a VIP parking pass for summer performances. The highest level ($10,000+) entitles you to dinner with the BTG board president, complimentary meals at Jane’s Café and other personalized benefits.

The Williamstown Theater Festival gives all members (starting at $50) priority ticket handling. Higher level “WTF Friends” memberships ($300) provide advanced access to tickets for Fellowship Projects. These are new works created by up-and-coming playwrights, directors and members of the WTF Non-Equity Company.

“WTF Friends with Benefits” ($600) receive access to a donors-only lounge where they can mingle with Festival artists before all Main and Nikos Stage productions. Invitations to other events come with higher levels as well. “WTF Lovers” ($2,500) receive “guaranteed access to a pair of the best seats in the house for all Main and Nikos Stage productions,” ticket concierge service through the development office, an invitation for two to an exclusive WTF Lovers cocktail reception and other special events with Festival leadership and artists throughout the season. WTF also adds two free drinks per production. Donations surpassing $10,000 afford members personalized access to the Festival house seats and more.

Barrington Stage Company has an enthusiastic member base; their fun events bring folks together from all over. All members ($50+) are acknowledged in the season playbill and “Angel” members ($250) get 20-percent off in the lobby shop.

Starting at the Benefactor Level ($500+), members get complimentary passes to new play readings. At the Founders Society level ($1,995+), members receive season access to the Patron Lounge, personalized concierge assistance for priority seating, invitation to all summer Boyd-Quinson Mainstage opening night parties and complimentary scripts to all Mainstage shows. As donation levels increase, the benefits get even better and include guided backstage tours, meetings with the casts, complimentary combo passes, opportunities to attend rehearsals and much more.

The Berkshire Museum is as busy as any community center, and that’s really what it is. Basic membership, just $50 for an individual or $75 for dual/family, offers a general admission pass for a guest and free admission to science and technology centers worldwide. Supporters ($250) get additional guest passes plus invitations to exclusive events and travel opportunities. For $1,000, you join the Crane Society, which gets you behind-the-scenes access to the museum’s collections, unlimited free admission, season passes to the Little Cinema, a place at the annual Crane Society gathering with the executive director and other social events.

The Berkshire Botanical Garden offers unlimited access memberships that start at $50 for individuals, $30 for students and $100 for a family. Members also enjoy advance notice and member prices on classes, lectures, workshops and more. A $150 membership also comes with two guest passes. A $500 “Patron” gets an added escorted tour of the garden for up to 10 people and invitations to special receptions. Members who donate $1,000 or more join the Fence Club and receive all benefits and invitations to garden exhibition previews and special privileges at year-round Fence Club events. Additionally, that package promises a one-hour, on-site consultation with a member of the Garden’s horticultural staff.

Other Berkshires Cultural Organizations To Consider:
The Mount
Hancock Shaker Village
Shakespeare & Company
Chesterwood

Next week: Cultural organizations in the rest of the Rural Intelligence region.

Enjoy this post? Share it with others.

Posted by Jamie Larson on 03/06/17 at 10:04 AM • Permalink