By Mary Davis, Scott Hill and Ann Roberti
Planning for this year’s Andes Community Day started back in the winter of 2016 when I and many other Andes residents attended a Business Development meeting at the hotel. Unbeknownst to most of us, a small team of volunteers has been quietly organizing Andes Community Day for years – thank you Sally O’Neill and Maria Ditchek as well as Joe Berghammer and the Andes Fire Department. We found out some of these folks needed a break, or at the least, a lot more assistance.
Feeling strongly that the parade should be Andes centric in theme, and a celebration for our community, Mary Davis suggested that our farmers are what make Andes Andes. Ann Roberti wholeheartedly agreed, and also felt strongly that our recreational opportunities also make Andes wonderful. So, we eyed each other knowingly and volunteered to “help” with the parade. Soon after, Scott Hill, who wanted Andes Community Day to focus on our unique place in history, i.e. the Anti-Rent War, enthusiastically joined the parade team. Thus the trifocal event was born: Andes Community Days would celebrate our Farmers, History and Recreational Opportunities.
Sally O’Neill secured Andes Community Day as a Scenic Byway Signature Event and with that designation some grant money was awarded and Andes Community Day became Days. Maria spearheaded additional fundraising. Planning for an expanded two-day schedule of events soon began to take shape. We wanted events that exemplified our visions of Andes and highlighted our amenities. The Hunting Tavern would focus on history, local films on our history and farming could be shown in the newly restored Train Depot, Ballantine Park would again offer a stage for modern dancers and the new pavilion offered a perfect venue for a summer evening concert. The Andes Hotel would host many activities for all ages and music, food, and art would pervade the village. To hone the theme, farm tours and outdoor recreational activities were organized for Sunday.
The parade would set the tone. As a way to honor our farmers, we wanted to make a banner for every farm in Andes. We contacted them and inquired about their history and whether they would be interested in being in the parade. Needless to say, they said YES! Scott Hill designed and fabricated several more Calico Indian plywood cutouts for a history float and found several volunteers to don costumes to simulate a mass gathering. The Catskill Mountain Club said YES to a float and their members were out in force, accoutrements of recreational activities and trail building in hand. Soon we were awash in yeses, many new entities came forward and most of the former parade participants wanted to be in the parade again! All we can say is “Way To Go Andes!” It takes a village!
We think this year was a great success, we’ve learned some things, and hope to build on them for future years. We are so grateful to everyone who participated; especially those farmers who took time out of very busy summer days to make their floats and offer farm tours, and to the Fire Department who helped keep it all together out there on the road! We hope everyone had as much fun as we did and hope to see you back in the parade and in town for next year’s Community Days. — Mary Davis…with Ann Roberti
I always look forward to Andes Community Day and contributing some type of activity if I can. In this year’s event I was thrilled to be able to further my artistic exploration of Andes history, specifically the events around the “Anti Rent War.” Those historic stories are such an important and seminal part of Andes and American history. The addition of the “History” float and the “Calico Indian Marchers” to the parade line up was to me a natural and exciting step forward. The integration of the “Indians” into Gloria Maclean’s dance performance in Ballantine Park was equally fascinating for me and lays the groundwork for further expressions (artistic, academic, literary, etc.) of this colorful and intense period in Andes history. I feel we are seeing the beginnings of great and very interesting activity in Andes and I am proud to be part of the community and eager to be able to contribute however I can. –Scott Hill
For Victoria Kupchinestsky, this year’s Andes Community Days was a culmination of a story she has been working on. For over three years she has been putting together a documentary film on the Anti-Rent War and had a crew of five filmmakers fanned throughout the hamlet to document the event. For her, this day exemplified history—real people in a living story. Although most onlookers interviewed knew about the Anti-Rent War, curiosities were piqued, appetites whetted to learn more. What more can one hope for out of a small town parade?
Community Day weekend. When asked if it lived up to her expectations Lorrie said, “It was the best event of the summer! We had music, dance, food, entertainment, and history! You can’t beat it! And I was so happy to see the new Train Depot. They did a lovely job. And I love the bratwurst & beer at the Tavern!” Lorrie suggested that maybe next year there could be a Stamp Cancellation Ceremony marking Andes Community Day.
After his performance in the Tractor Dance Mel Bellar went to town, “I thought it was a great day…it was FUN. It was thrilling to see so many people on the streets of Andes.”
There were so many people on the street – and in the park – and at the Train Depot. Senator Seward came to Andes to participate in the opening of the Train Depot. It’s a known fact that the renovations to save this historical building never would have been possible if it weren’t for Senator Seward and past Town Supervisor Marty Donnelly. Marty was taken by complete surprise when it was announced that the new auditorium at the Depot was being dedicated in his name – the Donnelly Auditorium.
“Dancing in the Park” seems to build upon itself with each new year. Now in its fourth year, it was David Capps who spearheaded the idea to add the unique experience of performance art to Community Day. With Ballantine Park and Tremperskill as the backdrop there were six different dances in this year’s show, and one improvised “transition,” all accompanied with live music. This year’s event was dedicated to the late George Ballantine for his many artistic and humanitarian contributions, including building the park for Andes. A dance piece beautifully performed by Vicky Lundell was choreographed on a rock George Ballantine had placed in the park. Special tribute was also made to the historical importance of Andes in a powerful piece choreographed and directed by Gloria McLean. “Letter From The Anti-Rent Wars” asked us to remember those once imprisoned and sentenced to hang for their fight against unjust feudalism. Again this year David Capps choreographed a dance piece performed by our very own Andes Community Moving Company. And Raegan Reed choreographed a piece for some wonderful young members of the Cardio Club. It was again a gift to witness the collaborations of choreographers, artists, dancers, and musicians. It’s extremely enjoyable and continues to add a sense of pride to our community. Thank you David!
Also held in the park, Mel Bellar and Jeff Ditchek gave the most mind provoking, and riveting performance in the Tractor Dance event. Choreographed by David Capps to Johann Strauss’ The Blue Danube Waltz this ballet of tractors united the relationship between man and machine with humor, reverence and exquisite sensitivity. It was breathtaking and uplifting to watch. And for all who saw the tractor dance, a mind-bending fact: Neither tractor operator could hear the music!
Outdoor Recreation on Sunday
This year as part of Andes Community Days, the Catskill Mountain Club led a hike on the Shavertown Trail followed by a paddle on the Pepacton Reservoir. Both events were well attended, with 11 participants on the hike and 16 on the paddle. Several of the hikers live in the area but had not managed to visit the Shavertown Trail before. One couple found out about the hike when they Googled Pepacton Reservoir, and made the trip from downstate to join us. We plied this lovely couple with information about all the great things to do in the area and they excitedly said they will be back. Everyone enjoyed the incredible views from Snake Pond, as well as the lovely water lilies in bloom and blackberries ripe for the picking.
Some of the hikers stayed for for paddle, where we were joined by a number of first time paddlers as well as more experienced folks. The forecast wasn’t great, but we hoped thunderstorms would hold off until we finished — with the high temperatures during Community Days weekend, we though a little rain would almost be welcome When we were about two thirds of the way to our destination– as far up the Tremperskill as water levels would allow — we decided to have the more leisurely paddlers head back — the clouds were starting to look threatening. The more energetic paddlers decided to pick up the pace in order to get to see the beautiful rock formations that are emerging from the Tremperskill inlet to the reservoir, and paddle back as quickly as possible. Neither group emerged dry from the paddle. The first group made it back to the boat launch before the lightning, but we did not make it back before the rain. Amid lots of laughing, we pulled our boats out of the water. Soon we heard the crack of very close lightning and we worried about the other group. Finally we saw the leader of the other group emerge from the torrential downpour to report that everyone was safely out of the water on shore waiting for the lightning to pass. They had made it almost all the way back before the lightning, but safety dictated going no further. After the storm passed, the group walked the rest of the way back to the boat launch and a couple of us retrieved their boats. Everyone thought it was quite an adventure and didn’t mind the soaking or the sudden storm a bit. — Ann Roberti
In addition to the hike and paddle, there were farm tours, a sheepdog demonstration and a Family Fishing Clinic on Sunday – as well as the Fire Department’s pancake breakfast.
Joe and Jackie are relative newcomers to the Andes Farming community, but the Gladstone Hollow residents have gone into a virtual partnership with them and their 170 plus Katahdin sheep, providing additional prime grazing land for their 100% grass fed lamb and mutton. Joe and Jackie have adhered to a strict rotational grazing policy that maintains a vibrant root structure on their pastures. In an effort to minimize the sheep’s stress, they move them from pasture to pasture with carefully, well-trained Border Collies.
Joe and Jackie hosted a demonstration of how their incredible dogs herd sheep. When the spectators arrived, four sheep were huddled in the corner of the pasture where we were ourselves gathered. With a sharp whistle from Joe, a collie in a half run, half crawl movement approached the mini-herd and steered them through the assembled crowd. It was truly breathtaking; not glancing left or right through the assemblage, sheep and dog acted as one single focused unit of discipline.
The demonstration continued as Joe whistled short notes, long notes, and consecutive notes in specific pitches, all giving specific directions to the working dog. The sheep were herded in an intricate course through the pasture land which included passing within poles that simulate requirements in sheepdog herding competitions. Being from Wales, Joe admitted that whistling through his fingers was natural. “Everyone grew up whistling; it’s part of the culture.”
The exhausted sheep and dogs were at last given a reprieve when Jackie was seen entering the field with several lambs trailing after her. Children were handed bottles and encouraged to feed the lambs. The lambs responded in mutual enjoyment.
Reluctantly the crowd dispersed; presumably with the same feeling I had, in awe and respect not only for the animals but also for what Joe and Jackie are doing in Andes. – Mary Davis
The above is by no means a complete list of people and organizations that contributed to the success of Andes Community Days. The Andes Community Day Committee wholeheartedly thank you.~