Thursday, September 6, 2012


Last Saturday (AUGUST 25) was Shandaken Day, which is always special to my partner Chelsea and me because the 2008 Shandaken Day in Mt. Pleasant/Mt. Tremper was the first time we sold books at an event.  We have participated as vendors each year since as the "host" hamlet rotated through the hamlets of Shandaken.  Last year it was in Phoenicia.  We had to close down quickly as the first rainfall of Irene started at about 3:00pm.  We were lucky to get all our books packed in the van by the time the rain began in earnest.

Our home hamlet of Pine Hill was the host this year.  We kept the bookstore open, had carts on the sidewalk in front of the store, and also had three tables in a vendor's tent across the street.  The day turned out to be very hectic, running back and forth between the booth and the store, but we had a great day.  It was fun to see the Main Street of Pine Hill filled with people.  It reminded me of the old photos of Pine Hill in the 1890's with the street full of carriages, or the curvaceous cars of the 1940's and 50's.

I was also running back and forth to the Pine Hill Main Street Committee table in front of the Community Center.  We were raffling off some special T shirts we had made which celebrated the recognition by the State of the Pine Hill Historic District.

Our seven year old grandson was with us last week, and at different times both Chelsea and I were making sure he was occupied and having a good time.  For kids there was a scavenger hunt through the Historic District, relay races, and a watermelon eating contest.

The crowd was very mellow, and it was a good time to catch up with friends and neighbors.  To me the day exemplified the joy of living in a rural area.  Seeing people in the community and saying hello.  The sunny but not so hot weather made the trees shine and the mountain streams running through town sparkle.

Old friends sit in front of Elena's lace and fine sewing shop on Main Street.  The sign in the window of the Pine Hill Bookstore is visible on the right side of the picture.
The Pine Hill Community Center was at the center of Shandaken Day activities.  Zumba demonstrations were a popular attraction all day at the center.  Children's activities were in another room of the Center.  The handicraft tables in the Craft Shop at the front of the Center were very popular.  Catskill potter Michael Boyer also had a table of antiques and near antiques at the from of the Center, in addition to his work on sale in the Craft Shop.  Michael teaches occasional courses on potting at the Center which are in great demand.
The tug of war competition between the fire companies and other first responders in the various hamlets has become a Shandaken Day tradition.  The competition took place this year on the front lawn of the Colonial Inn, at the upper end of Main Street. It soon became apparent that the team on the lower end of the "field" had an advantage due to the gradual slope of the ground.  The picture above shows the Big Indian Fire Company team digging in as they struggled with the Shandaken Ambulance Corp Team.  The ambulance Corp Team was the eventual overall winner of the contest, but even they had difficult moments when they tried to pull from the uphill side, as the picture below illustrates.
The Shandaken Ambulance Corp is recognized as one of the best in New York State, but their Tug of War team sometimes ends up on the ground just like the others.  The spectators really got in to cheering the men on.
Here is another hose company pulling as hard as they can.  Notice how the members of this team are barehanded.  The winning Shandaken Ambulance Corp team came equipped with gloves and sturdy shoes.

 The sign for the "Grand Buffet" every Saturday at the Colonial appears in the background.  This buffet is one of the most popular traditions of people in the Central Catskills. The Colonial has been in operation since the late 1700's

Concentration shows on the face of Rich Muellerlele, Captain of the Shandaken Ambulance Corp, and evident leader of the tug of war team.

 Town Supervisor Rob Stanley referees the Tug of War while his father Robert Stanley Sr. cheers one of the Tug of War teams (father and son in pink Shandaken Day 2012 T shirts).  The trophy for the winner of the Tug of War contest stands in front of the suit of armor, while several spectators take advantage of the good view from the front steps of the Colonial.


Pine Hill has an active Main Street Committee which is focused on the revitalization of the Main Street of the hamlet. ( )This committee was behind the effort to have the Pine Hill HIstoric District recognized by the state this year, and hopefully, by the Federal Government eventually.  The Main Street Committee has also created a new, updated, and expanded web site for Pine Hill (  A third project has been the development of walking, hiking, and bicycle tours which are recommended to visitors to the town. One of the unique aspects of Pine Hill is that the hamlet is very pleasant for walking.

The Main Street Committee T-Shirt raffle table was "manned" most of the day by Maureen Nagy and her brother Bill, visiting from Cleveland, Ohio.  The T-Shirt has a four colored image of the Zephyr Building on Main Street, and turned out to be very popular with festival goers.

The entrance to the Pine Hill Community Center is located in the former Griffin's Garage, built in the 1920's.  This building is the home of many community activities for all ages, such as Zumba classes, pottery classes, Scrabble Tournaments, Catskill Slow Jam sessions, the Saturday Children's Program, Tai Chi Classes, the Native American Group, and the Storytellers Group.  This year the children were led by well-known Roxbury Farmer Madelayne Warren in planting a vegetabe garden, seen at the right of the picture.  The culmination of the garden project will be the preparation of a ratatouille feast at the end of the harvest season, with all the veggies coming from this garden.  The quarterly Catskill Cabaradio Show is probably the best known event based at the Community Center. 
This view from the back of the Pine Hill Books booth looks across Main Street at a tableau created on one side of the Zephyr Building.  The sign says "Pine Hill Has It All", a slogan which does contain a bit of hamlet puffery, but it is true that life certainly can be pleasant in Pine Hill.

Pine Hill resident and Shandaken Town Supervisor Rob Stanley did a great job as coordinator of the relay races and other games for children.  Stanley and the kids obviously had a good time while parents and grandparents watched from under a shade tree behind the Pine Hill Arms.  Kids from 6-14 competed in the events.  There was a relay race involving teams of two and large inner tubes, a "carry an egg on a spoon" race, and a "throw and catch the water balloon" contest.  The winners in these events received medals at the awards ceremony.

Earlier there had been a scavenger hunt through the town as kids tried to identify the buildings, places, and things which had to be identified in the hunt.  The first person to correctly identify all the things listed on the hunt answer sheet was the winner.  This was a great way to familiarize the kids with Pine Hill, a safe town for children to play in as long as a bear doesn't get them and they down drown in a creek.
Oliver and Caleb with the medals won in the children's relay races.
Rob Stanley awards a (plastic) gold medal to (my grandon) Caleb Soria.

Supervisor Stanley directs traffic while the competitors concentrate on the eggs they are carrying.  If you dropped you egg you had to go back to the beginning and start over.


The afternoon of Shandaken Day 2011 was the start of the Hurricane Irene in the Catskills.  Tony Lanza was the head of the Belleayre Ski Resort at that time, and came to play a critical role in helping Shandaken and Middletown cope with the flood crisis in the aftermath of Irene.  Bellayre took in homeless people, was a distribution point for food, was a landing spot for helicopters flying in supplies and taking seriously injured people out to Albany or Kingston, and was a center of communications.  Lanza already was well known and liked in areas around Belleayre for his successful leadership of the ski area over many years.

In the year after Irene the decision was made by New York State which owns Belleayre decided to shift the responsibility of the facility from the Department of Environmental Conservation to the Olympic Regional Development Asociation (ORDA) which supervises Adirondack ski areas at Whiteface and Gore Mountains and Lake Placid.  Lanza was dismissed in the management change.  In addition he is under investigation by the State for as yet un-named matters.  The Watershed Post has examined the issue of free passes which Lanza issued to VIP's and local police officials, but no charges have been made.

Many people and leaders in the Town of Shandaken like Lanza, and wanted to express their appreciation for his role during Irene, and for the many services he has rendered to the people and regional economy around the Belleayre Mountain Ski Area.

Tony Lanza speaking to the people assembled at the awards ceremony.

Close-up of Lanza addressing the crowd at the awards ceremony.