If you were there when people rode horses and donkeys to market and church, maybe celebrating your birthday for an entire year isn’t that unseemly. The Town of Esopus has been celebrating its bicentennial by creating its own special events and threading together existing events going on within its own 40-square-mile parameters of its hamlets: Connelly, Esopus, New Salem, Port Ewen, Rifton, St. Remy, Sleightsburgh, Ulster Park, Union Center and West Park.
Banding together otherwise-unrelated events, recreation and tourism such as the annual Memorial Day parade, an outdoor Mass of “Our Lady of the Hudson,” tours through the Burroughs cabin at Slabsides, a free Army band concert in Freer Park and a kayaking tour of the lighthouses, the town is creating a unifying body and theme of history to flood tourism and sense-of-community equally throughout its parts.
Many of the folks who put the event together are town employees, who have a love of Esopus and its parts. Bernice McIerney, the tax collector, Dan Terpening, the assessor, Louis Dekosfky, the court clerk and John Coutant, the town supervisor, all volunteered their time and elbow grease for their community.
Terpinger, a lifelong resident of Esopus, is also one of Klyne Esopus Museum’s founders. “We are getting very good response from people in the community, and it’s not just Port Ewen,” said Terpinger. “Some of people tend to forget it’s the Town of Esopus. We all have different perspectives of the town, mine being the history of the town, whereas others are interested in their hamlets. My ancestry is all over the town, so I have an interest in all of the hamlets.”
Terpinger will be conducting a guided bus tour of the hamlets on Oct. 1, the final conclusion of the celebration in which special events such as a parade and auction of the artfully decorated tug boats displayed around town. The tour will be starting at town hall and going westward through Connelly (formally called South Rondout, according to Terpinger), St. Remy, Rifton, Dashville past Buttermilk Falls and past Perrine’s Bridge, where he will point out the Bonticou school, and go up Old Post Road. Along the way guests will hear the early American history, see Sojourner’s Truth’s neighborhood and more.
Supervisor Coutant also emphasized that the celebrations help strengthen community. “Town employees are the ones putting this together because they care about the community,” he said. “You ask me about putting people together and making them closer, and I tell you that town employees have a concern about the history of the town; you tie them into a loop of the outside people who are not here at all and you have got a marriage of town officials and people who want to see a heck of a celebration for the town. The other night we spent two hours having a meeting together trying to strategize how to get people to come and visit here.”
The Bruderhof Maple Ridge Community helped fashion the 13 tugboats decorated by various area artists which will be available for auction Oct. 1. According to event coordinator Lois Ingellis, sealed bids will be accepted from Sept. 6 through Oct. 1, with a minimum starting bid of $250. “We have all these gems nobody even knows about,” she said. Ingellis helped Port Ewen to net the Main Street grant used to add some polish to the graying downtown business district with streetscape enhancements like benches, a gazebo, way-finding signs and more. Ingellis said that she hopes to see this community pride continue, and said the Esopus Business Alliance is so impressed that they have expressed interest in sponsoring events for next year.
The Town of Esopus published a brochure listing all the events, and also offers a downloadable PDF version of it on their site esopus.com. Upcoming events for this year include:
- Saturday, Aug. 20, 10 a.m. — Kayak Paddle Pals will kayak between Kingston and Esopus lighthouses. Tour launch from Sleightsburgh Park. Contact: https://groups.yahoo.com/group/KingstonPaddlePals.
- Sept. 6 through Oct. 31 — Art exhibit at the Town Hall of historical paintings, photographs and other memorabilia focusing on Esopus events and places over the years.
- Saturday, Sept. 17, 3 p.m., Rondout Creek — Kayak Paddle Pals Launch from Sleightsburgh Park, during Timefest. Contact:https://groups.yahoo.com/group/KingstonPaddlePals.
- Saturday, Sept. 24 — Fall Festival to include town-wide yard sales, events for children at Ross Park, flea market at MedRex location, car show at Frozen Rainbow, Methodist Church apple pie sale and evening dinner. Contact: www.gbgm-umc.org/TOEUMC.
- September (date/time TBA) — Hudson Ramble, a 10-mile hike. Contact info@EsopusPreservation.org.
- Saturday, Oct. 1, Town Hall — Finale Celebration. Bus tours, tugboat auction, farmer’s market, and more.