Throughout New England, there are more “Discover Saugerties” pamphlets — 20,000, to be precise — than there are residents in the town it touts. Chock-full with lists of events, town officials, historic landmarks and ads for local businesses, the booklet serves as a complete guide for tourists — the correct pronunciation of Saugerties (“Saw-Ger-Tees”) is even spelled out above the history of the town in brief.
Tourism Committee Chair Marjorie Block has finally been put on the town’s payroll, effective May 3 at a rate of $15 an hour, after six years of tirelessly amassing and writing the elements of the tell-all guide, bringing the pamphlets to travel shows, forming relationships between the town and tourism organizations and promoting local businesses that may be too nascent or too small to pay for Chamber of Commerce memberships.
“Tourism is the number one economic driver for the Hudson Valley and Saugerties,” said Chamber of Commerce Chair Mark Smith, who assists with the booklet’s production. “This comes as no surprise to the people who live in and visit the area, considering the multitude of resources that abound here.”
With ties to the land that go back generations to Evert Wynkoop, who built the stone house that can be viewed from the exit of the southbound Thruway tollbooths in 1727, Block has been a lifelong member of the community. By day, she works at Candlestock. In addition to writing, putting together and distributing the 50-page Discover Saugerties booklet, which she estimates takes between 90 and 100 hours collectively, Block has served for the last five years as a grant writer for the town, the chair of the historical society for six and as village historian for almost a decade. In 2010, she penned Saugerties: Post Card History.
You may have seen Block parked at a booth at the Garlic Festival, taking in the annual Sawyer Motors car show, or posting photos of buildings and documents on Saugerties history-related Facebook pages. She is undoubtedly one of Saugerties most vocal advocates.
Fittingly, the 1727 Kiersted House serves as the Tourism Committee’s home base. She said that she took the position partially because of the soulful pull the old stone building had on her.
“It’s also the people,” said Block. “They’re really a community. It’s the place, but it’s not just the place — it’s the feeling of being in a community. If you think about it, the people of Saugerties always come together and do things like the Garlic festival, run completely by volunteers. Saving the lighthouse: volunteers. Saving a barn: volunteers. Or the Christmas tree store, so no child goes without Christmas in Saugerties. It’s about the people. We always come together, you know what I mean?”
Thanks to Block, the booklet and Saugerties’ reach extends to the New York State Fair, the New York Times’ Travel Show in Syracuse, the Taste of New York Show, Destinations of New York and widespread graphic adverts from I Love New York. She played an integral role in the refurbishment of the Dutch Barn at the Kiersted House, a project conceived by the late Marie Post.
“If you think about where these travel guides go and the local businesses featured in them, we’re giving our residents a voice [wherever we hand them out],” said Block.
The pamphlet itself, according to Block, has been circulated in some form for the last 10 years; the first iteration of the Chamber of Commerce’s yearly auction, which has dotted Main and Market streets with decorated sailboats this year, was launched with the intention of fundraising for an economic guide to the town.
Through a surge in community events, Block’s efforts and the embrace of Saugerties’ historical draw to tourists, the quiet town has experienced a resurgence in tourism activity. Block works to catalogue and promote that uptick.
“When I was growing up, it was a running joke that there was nothing to do in Saugerties,” said John Schoonmaker, a town council liaison to the committee. “Now, there seems to be an event every weekend, and most of them are in that pamphlet.”
“She wants all forms of culture, all people to thrive,” said Paul Andreassen, also a town council liaison to the committee. “We see the vouchers for the hours that she puts in, and we know that you could probably double those hours by just [counting the time that she takes] answering emails.”
Businesses who want to feature the Discover Saugerties pamphlet, be featured in its next iteration or who have ideas for Block can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Tourism is the driving force that’s keeping our stores open,” said Block. “It’s not a strain on our infrastructure like other industries. Sometimes it’s been the driving force in businesses staying in Saugerties.”