Kelsey Grammer Faith American Brewing Company Margaretville NY

Faith American Ale is Born In The Catskills

Catskills Dining

Kelsey Grammer offered me a beer this afternoon.

Kelsey Grammer Faith American Brewing Company Margaretville NY Kelsey Grammer bartending at Faith American Brewing Company Margaretville NY

This did not take place in “the city” at some trendy new hot spot. I wasn’t rubbing shoulders with movie stars and models at some Upstate upscale boutique eatery.

I was day-drinking. And eating food-truck tacos. On a dairy farm turned taproom. With friends (and a few influential locals) at the Faith American Brewing Company’s post-Labor Day Celebration and soft opening.

Only in the Catskills!

Kelsey Grammer Faith American Brewing Company Margaretville NY Faith American Brewing Company Margaretville NY
Kelsey Grammer Faith American Brewing Company Margaretville NY Kelsey Grammer’s Faith American Ale on tap
Kelsey Grammer Faith American Brewing Company Margaretville NY Ale by the can at Faith American Brewing Company

A dream spanning several decades for father, businessman, and yes, TV star, came to fruition this afternoon as Mr. Grammer opened the doors and taps of his on-site seasonal tavern just outside the town of Margaretville, in Middletown, Delaware County, NY.

“Having visited the Catskills as a boy and spent some of my most precious days here, I always suspected I would have a future with these mountains,” writes Mr. Grammer.

Friends and neighbors mingled, made welcome by the warm smiles and handshakes of their host. I made the same observance I made at last month’s square dance. All kinds of kinds were there, politics didn’t matter. It was a bonus summer day in the Catskills, and beer was flowing instead of the promised all-day rain. Kelsey Grammar is a man of faith, and it paid off.

He most sincerely hopes that Faith American Brewing Company will “restore this magnificent corner of the world to a thriving and vital place in America’s economy.”

This concept is almost as refreshing as the beer being served up in the pint glasses freshly stamped, “Faith American Ale Born In The Catskills”.

Cheers!

*****

For many more details on Faith American Brewing Company, LLC, please visit FaithAmerican.com

*****

Update 9.6.19 Brief clarification: brewery is not currently located on the same site as the tavern. Also, many thanks to Don Cazentre of nyup.com for featuring my photos and giving this Mountain Girl a soundbite! Read his article here at Syracuse.com

Rebecca Andre wears many hats as a photographer, food & lodging writer, reporter, web designer and poet living and working in a lovely Delaware County hamlet with her husband and daughter. She promotes local businesses and musicians, and can be reached at MoonflowerRA@gmail.com

Learn To Square Dance – Change The World?

Catskills Music

After attending a community square dance this past Saturday night, I came away with this epiphany: If everyone learned to square dance, the world would be a better place. 

How lucky am I, that I live in the Catskills, where square dancing is making a comeback. Where the fiddler and caller bring together folks from both sides of the fence: young or old, local or Brooklynite, farmer or freelancer, Democratic or Republican. It doesn’t matter.

For a couple of hours, strangers link arms and all judgement gets stomped away. 

For those of us on the sidelines, not quite ready to dive in to a square, it’s easy to witness the growing joy as dancers, both experienced and newcomers, twirl and laugh as they attempt to follow the calls. Sounds coming from the fiddles, banjo, bass and guitar take over, and for a few moments all of us in attendance forget our problems. We forget our differences. All that matters is the music and the dance.

Most would agree that any kind of dancing to live music can induce this sort of swirling, breathless joy – if we let it. What sets square dancing apart is that the dancers must leave the comfort zone of dancing with a friend or a partner, and eventually reach out to someone they don’t know. 

Especially at a square dance like Saturday’s. Thanks to the event -spreading wonder that is social media, both the local community and city folk heard about a chicken BBQ and square dance taking place at Dirty Girl Farm, the smallest licensed goat milk dairy in Delaware County, NY. Owners Lester Bourke and his wife Cindi Wright are the quintessential salt of the earth. I really could write an entire article on what they have going on over in Andes, and probably will, one day.

Lester Bourke and Cyndi Wright of Dirty Girl Farm

For now, I will say they welcomed everyone onto their property, into their barn. Chicken and salads were served, and dessert by Two Old Tarts sold out. This chicken BBQ even  had a vegetarian option! Also, a portion of the proceeds went to the Andes Food Pantry. The Facebook invite went something like this.

“Inviting neighbors and visitors to an old time evening of square dancing story sharing, eating and good fun. Featuring the Tremperskill Boys with callers and fiddlers John Jacobson and Dane Scudder sponsored by Catskills Folk Connection.”

Coming across the invite rather late in the week, after I had already planned on setting up shop at the railroad crossing in Halcottsville, to witness a group of well-dressed New Yorkers from And North pass through my cute little hamlet on a party train, I almost didn’t go. Then, a storm whipped up. The weather wasn’t looking good for an outdoor photo op.  

Ironically, I have not been to a square dance since I was in 5th grade gym class, but I have promoted several square dances for a client of mine, Ben Rounds. He is an experienced caller and teacher, and often returns to his hometown in Chenango County to host square dances.

So…ever answering the call of country music and a cook out, my family decided last minute to go to Dirty Girl Farm for the square dance. Though I couldn’t find my cowgirl boots, at least I found my hat. My daughter had her boots, and so did my husband. Off we went.

And I am so glad we did. I saw people I had not seen in such a long time. Even though sometimes we don’t have everything in common, we have enough. Hugs, handshakes and stories filled the night. The goats and the kids, the fiddles and the dancers all provided a backdrop to a carefree evening in the country.

At one point a friend of mine, Karen Caskey Fairbairn, Program Director for the Roxbury Art Group  that just so happens to be hosting the amazing Fiddlers! 26 concert and square dance, looked to the dancers and leaned over to me, saying “Everyone seems so happy.”

That’s when it dawned on me, everyone IS happy. In this moment. Happy to be stumbling their way through a group dance on a plywood dance floor on the second story of a sixty year old barn. At a goat farm. 

For a few hours, there was unity, despite the odd mix of hipster and farmer, conservative and hippie, carnivore and vegetarian. News of the recent shootings hadn’t yet spread. Even if it had, I believe it would have made the dancing even more necessary, a reminder that life hangs on a thread, and we need to make the best of every day; dance every chance you get.

*********

For detailed info on the upcoming Fiddlers! 26 FREE performance, click here. Save the date, October 13.

Looking to host a square dance, or square dance lessons? Contact Ben Rounds here

Don’t Feed The Bears

Outdoor Catskills, Watershed Post

Co-existence with these beautiful omnivores requires respect and conservational balance. Oh, and common sense too. Walking today, I came across bear spore (aka sign of an animal including tracks, scat, hair,etc). This is common on the mountainside where I live on the Western Slope of the Catskills. I was reminded of an article I wrote a few years ago for the now archive-only online news site, Watershed Post. The information is just too in-demand to keep under wraps.

How To Stay Safe in Catskills Bear Country

by Rebecca Andre

Spring in the Catskills is a breathtaking season of roaring waterfalls, eagles taking flight and pastures covered in blooming wildflowers—and, thanks to our resident black bear population, of overturned trash cans, destroyed bird feeders and dented vehicles.

In May, Region 4 of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which covers a portion of the Catskills, received dozens of complaints about bears, according to Joshua Choquette, a DEC wildlife technician. By May 23, the agency had received 54 complaints about bears from its nine counties, Choquette said.

The majority of the complaints the DEC receives each year are calls from homeowners reporting that their trash or bird feeder is being feasted upon by a local black bear, according to Choquette.

But about 20 percent of the calls each year are of a more serious nature, with a bear causing damage to vehicles, property or agriculture, he said.

A bear’s search for food

Warmer temperatures in the spring bring the black bears emerging hungry from their dens. Choquette said. Immediately, they begin searching for food, which is still scarce at this time of year.

“Their whole behavior is driven by food,” said Choquette.

In an April 22 press release, the DEC issued tips for how bears and humans come into conflict.

“Bears can obtain all of the food they need from the forest, but they are intelligent and opportunistic animals that will find and consume whatever food they can find most easily,” the statement read. “Bird feeders, garbage cans,dumpsters, barbecue grills, unsecured out-buildings or vehicles containing food or waste are all potential attractants to bears. Once a bear learns to obtain food from people or certain structures, it is very difficult to change the animal’s behavior. These bears are more vulnerable to motor vehicle collisions in populated areas, more likely to be illegally killed, or may become a threat to public safety.”

The DEC encourages homeowners to call their regional wildlife conservation office if a foraging bear causes any damage to property.

In the Catskills, call the Schenectady office at 518-357-2450, the Stamford office at 607-652-7369 or the New Paltz office at 845-256-3000. The location and date of nuisance bear reports are all kept on record, and afford the agency an accurate assessment regarding wildlife activity in a particular area.

Greene and Delaware counties, especially the area in and around the town of Middletown in Delaware County, are known for a higher density of black bears, according to Choquette.

Just ask the Ingraham family. They live on Route 30 between the town of Roxbury and the hamlet of Halcottsville in Delaware County, and in May they had already had four encounters with a “brave bear that’s not tiny,” according to Lillian Ingraham.

The bear has left paw prints on the side of their house and has ripped a shed door off a neighbor’s house, Ingraham said.

The family reported the bear’s visits to the DEC, and was issued non-lethal rubber buckshot bullets by an environmental conservation officer, who instructed the family to shoot at the bear’s backside (not its face) if it returns.

They were told that the rubber buckshot is not intended to cause permanent damage, but to condition the bear to associate pain with a certain location, Ingraham said. Although the family’s trash is secured, the bear continues to return, she said.

Catskill black bear. All photos within article by Rebecca Andre, use with permission only.

Stay safe in bear country

According to statistics gathered by the DEC, there are between 6,000 to 7,000 black bears in New York state. A female adult bear weighs 170 pounds, and a male adult bear can weigh up to 300 pounds.

Humans can safety co-exist with bears in the Catskills if they follow a few simple rules, according to Larry Bifaro, the DEC’s Region 4 wildlife biologist. He said that he handles 80 percent of his bear conflict calls with some “simple advice:”

  • Do not feed bears. It is a dangerous and illegal activity anywhere in the state of New York, and the DEC requests to be alerted should anyone witness a person feeding a bear.
  • Remove bird feeders after April 1, even those up high, as fallen birdseed will tempt a bear.
  • Clean grills, and their grease traps, after use. Store them inside if possible.
  • Store your garbage securely in a locked building or in lidded cans with ropes and chains. Dispose of trash as frequently as possible. Clean garbage cans with ammonia products, and put cans out the morning of, not the night before, collection. Bears will forage on whatever they find, including life-threatening materials like soap, shaving cream and plastics.
  • Do not burn garbage, which is illegal and can attract bears.
  • Do not add meat scraps, bones or melon rinds to your compost.
  • Do not operate refrigerators or freezers outdoors.
  • Feed pets indoors and store pet food indoors as well.
  • Do not leave food, trash or wrappers in a parked vehicle.
  • Consider using electric fencing around vegetable gardens and bee hives.

Learn more about New York’s black bears on the DEC’s website. For more information about bears in your area or to report a problem with black bears, contact the nearest regional DEC office. Region 4 numbers: Schenectady office, 518-357-2450. Stamford office, 607-652-7369. Region 3 numbers: New Paltz office, 845-256-3000.

The above is a repost from the June 4, 2016 article, written by myself with edits by the WP team.
‘Prasmatic Light’, a refreshing wheat ale with notes of orange peel, peaches and grapefruit. @Rebecca Andre of Mountain Girl Photography, NY. Use by permission only please.

Catskill Living Along The Rt. 28 Scenic Byway – Outtakes

Catskills Dining, Catskills Overnight, Kaatskill Life

Being the food and lodging writer for Kaatskill Life Magazine is one of several gigs, most definately a treasured one. I find myself meeting all sorts of folks and tasting my way up and down the Catskill Scenic Byway of Route 28. The following photos are some outtakes that did not see print. Below are links to the articles to read online, with links to their Facebook or websites directly following. Online subscriptions to Kaatskill Life are also available, just click here: kaatslife.com/shop

Chocolate Semifreddo with smoked caramel, meringue and graham crumble at Scribbner's Prospect restaurant.

Chocolate Semifreddo with smoked caramel, meringue and graham crumble at Scribbner’s Prospect restaurant.

Kaatskill Dining:

Kaatskill Lodging:

Kaatskill Dining/Lodging

All Photos © Rebecca Andre, Mountain Girl Photography. Use with permission only please.

Scribbner's Prospect Restaurant Seasonal inspired cocktails include this nutmeg dusted lemon whiskey ©Rebecca Andre

Scribner’s Prospect Restaurant Seasonal inspired cocktails include this nutmeg dusted lemon whiskey ©Rebecca Andre

 

Family table at Cucina Woodstock ©Rebecca Andre

Family table at Cucina Woodstock ©Rebecca Andre

Bread baked daily in Brio’s wood-fired oven  ©Rebecca Andre

Potato Pancakes topped with applesauce at Brio’s, © Rebecca Andre, Mountain Girl Photography. Photo use with permission only please.

Potato Pancakes topped with applesauce at Brio’s ©Rebecca Andre

Chocolate & Caramel cupcake at Bite Me Bakery © Rebecca Andre, Mountain Girl Photography. Photo use with permission only please.

Chocolate and Caramel cupcake at Bite Me Bakery ©Rebecca Andre

 

Woodstock Brewing outdoor seating. ©Rebecca Andre of Mountain Girl Photography, NY. Use by permission only please.

Woodstock Brewing outdoor seating. ©Rebecca Andre

Tap room at Woodstock Brewing. ©Rebecca Andre of Mountain Girl Photography, NY. Use by permission only please.

Tap room at Woodstock Brewing. ©Rebecca Andre

Pine Hill Arms. ©Rebecca Andre of Mountain Girl Photography, NY. Use by permission only please.

Pine Hill Arms. ©Rebecca Andre

Maeve, in charge at Maeve’s Coffee Shop at Pine Hill Arms, and friend. ©Rebecca Andre of Mountain Girl Photography, NY. Use by permission only please.

Maeve, in charge at Maeve’s Coffee Shop at Pine Hill Arms, and friend. ©Rebecca Andre

Queen room with kitchenette at Phoenicia Belle B and B. ©Rebecca Andre of Mountain Girl Photography, NY. Use by permission only please.

Violet’s Suite with kitchenette at Phoenicia Belle B and B. ©Rebecca Andre

Violet’s kitchenette at Phoenicia Belle B and B. ©Rebecca Andre of Mountain Girl Photography, NY. Use by permission only please.

Violet’s kitchenette at Phoenicia Belle B and B. ©Rebecca Andre

Owners Tom and Dana Fraser Violet’s at Phoenicia Belle B and B. ©Rebecca Andre of Mountain Girl Photography, NY. Use by permission only please.

Owners Tom and Dana Fraser at Phoenicia Belle B and B. ©Rebecca Andre

Wintertime on the Mill Stream. ©Rebecca Andre of Mountain Girl Photography, NY. Use by permission only please.

Wintertime on the Mill Stream. ©Rebecca Andre

*As a photographer for hire well-versed in the hospitality industry, feel free to email me at MoonflowerRA@gmail.com if you are interested having photos taken of your own restaurant  or lodging establishment. 

Blenheim Bridge officially sets down across Schoharie Creek

Catskills Bridges
First official photo of the bridge lowered and set, wood to concrete. Photos by Rebecca Andre of MGPAD, please ask for permission before use.

By Rebecca Andre,  Tues., 5.1.18 – 7:44 pm – North Blenheim, NY

Here is the first official look at the new “Old Blenheim Bridge” across the Schoharie Creek, steel free and solely supported by her arched trusses meticulously perched on the abutments. This is a momentous day.

Almost there!

“We are ecstatic,” said a group of locals that gathered for free hotdogs at Pastor Mike’s church, UMC of Blenheim, the previous Wednesday. The sign at the church declared “almost there” and “free hotdogs” as workers were treated to lunch.

“Almost there” sign at Blenheim UMC
Removal of the last temporary steel supports from the west end abutment

Now, on this first day of May, the Town of Blenheim has officially evened its score with Tropical Storm Irene. Six and a half years ago, the storm claimed victory, with floodwaters devastating the town and in a symbolic flourish, destroying the bridge, leaving the towns folk without their homes and without their bridge.

After a battle that spanned years and multiple appeals to FEMA, hope and the bridge have been restored over the troubled waters of the Schoharie Creek. (Please read the full Kaatskill Life story on the rebuilding of the bridge here and stay tuned for further coverage in the same quarterly magazine detailing the entire move of the 200 ton bridge.)

Completion timeline

Despite some local papers proclaiming the project as “almost finished” Richard Christman, Chief Engineer with GPI, or as he calls himself, “interpreter of the plans and the problems,” says that the projected completion is set for October of 2018. Due to Mother Nature, along with other unpredictables, even this forecast could change.

Stan Graton of 3G Construction, a third generation bridgewright, has hopes his part will be completed sometime in June, that is the building of the floor and roof and the pre-loading of 147 tons. ( An engineering requirement that means approximately 45 gallons of water per sq. foot, i.e. 168 IBC totes pumped full of creek water, must be placed the length of the bridge to test its strength against the 150 person capacity and projected snow load).

“And then we can lock in the center diagonals,” says Graton.

Stan and Arnold (JR) Graton make use of shims during the last connection;  the final setting of wood to concrete

But such activities, including but not limited to, installation of the standing seam metal roof, fireproofing, re-establishing electricity, staining of the concrete abutments, landscaping and site cleanup mean that the bridge is still half a year away from completion.

In the meantime, take a ride to North Blenheim and experience the lifting energy that the rebuilt bridge has bestowed upon this small Schoharie County town. Park by the Blenheim Honor Roll sign, across from the old school house, just shy of the construction site. For safety reasons, please stay behind the orange fence and snap away.

***

Richard Christman, Chief Engineer, watches the final placement
Stan and JR Graton breathe a sigh of relief that the structure they have so tirelessly worked on, built faithfully to original specs and at times with period appropriate (mid 19th century) handtools, sits proud and sturdy across the water
Bridge offices temporarily staged at the bridge museum, previously a school house. Banner boasts the coalition of companies and agencies responsible for the new bridge.

Economy Paving Company, Stan Graton II 3G Construction Inc., GPI Engineering, Expert House Movers, Lamont Engineers, Simmons Recovery Consulting, Hoyle, Tanner & Assoc., P.C., Town of  Blenheim, Shoharie County, U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security, FEMA

Covered Bridge , symbol of Town of Blenheim
img_3175.jpg

“Old Blenheim Bridge” built in 1855 by Nicholas Powers, drawing by Robert E. Shaffer 12.25.1939

Flash Mob Marks End Of Summer

Small Town Catskills

Halcottsville, NY – Labor Day weekend for the Catskills has come to mean an influx of  Air BnB hipsters, long lines at the store, a four day seafood station at Freshtown, actual real traffic jams, fireworks in the park, and packed farmers’ markets.

The weekend would not be complete without the Halcottsville Flash Mob, a tradition that keeps on growing.

Carried out by the local neighbors and weekenders alike at the Seuss property, the gathering begins around 7pm, but the preparation begins weeks earlier. You see, the whole point is for the DURR passengers, onboard the dinner/music train that runs from Arkville, NY to Roxbury, NY, to get treated to dancing torches in the Seuss’ back yard that appear from the darkness just as the train slows to the perfect viewing spot.

I guess you kind of have to be there…

In case you weren’t, here is a fun edit I did of the almost seven minute event, now under three minutes, as I took liberty to focus on the highlights and re-arrange the song a bit. I hope Johnny Cash and Blues Maneuver don’t mind too much.

Halcottsville Flash Mob Torches for the Train to Ring of Fire 9.2.17 from Mountain Girl Photography… on Vimeo.

A fire dance flash mob choreographed to “Ring of Fire” by Johny Cash performed by Blues Maneuver on 9.2.17 in the small hamlet of Halcottsville, NY. (Please note, song was re-arranged for post editing purposes)

Spring in the Catskills

Outdoor Catskills

Ramps, rain, fiddleheads, waterfalls, mud, allergies, ticks, trout…  on goes the list.

In the few short months of Spring/Summer, a lot needs to happen as soon as the weather shift takes place. The snow has melted, leaving a mess on the property.  The firewood stack has dwindled. The lawn mower needs a resurrection; a new batch of chemical-free bug spray needs to be concocted.  The list is endless.

IMG_2710

Fiddleheads and dandilions – a forager’s feast

This spring I have welcomed with wide open arms, as she marks the end of my Mom’s chemo, and perhaps a tiny promise of a return to slight normalcy.

Enter ‘In Bloom, 2017’, my first official gallery exhibition, shared with two amazing artists, Alix Hallman Travis and Mary Overly Davis, at the Common’s Gallery.

Finally my poetry and photography on the same wall for all the world to see. Actually, not sure how I feel about that now that I see it in writing….

'She Knows There Will Be Lilacs'

#20 ‘She Knows There Will Be Lilacs’

This collection is over three years in the making. Since I have moved to the Catskills, there has been abundant inspiration for my poetry and photography to intersect and intertwine. I have taken hordes of landscapes and also close ups blooms that bless these mountains, wether native or cultivated.

Of course, for me the first herald of spring is not a bloom at all, but rather a pointed little green nosing itself from beneath the decaying leaves: ramps, aka, wild leeks.

Catskill ramps

Ramps have risen

Whatever Spring means for you, or to you, be sure to embrace her. In the Catskills, Spring is fleeting yet fulfilling.

Hope Is Chartreuse

‘Hope is Chartreuse’ #5 – A Mother’s Day picnic by the Beaverkill inspired a poem and this photo of maple leaves being born

And with that…I leave you with a poem…or several.

MOTHER’S DAY BY A COVERED BRIDGE ON THE BEAVERKILL – A HAIKU COLLECTION

Pool of peace –
water flows steady beneath
stockade of trusses.

Glowing sun heats
freshly bared skin as hope grows;
a chartreuse promise.

Green and blue sea glass:
tiny gems too fragile for
this fast, fickle stream.

Distant thoughts hover
like black flies or nymphs just caught
in daydreams of silk.

Here we both sit:
Fly rods and trout, lens and pen
peace pulling us in.

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Catskills’ St. Patrick’s Day parade, brush fires & burn ban

Hard Hat Reporter, Small Town Catskills

Sunday, March 13th proved to be not only a gorgeous day for a small town parade, but also dangerously dry in the Catskills. (Scroll to end for parade slideshow)

Five days after the Hubbell Homestead Fire  in Delaware County, brush fires continue to pop up.

Roxbury Fire Department Fire Chief Ken Davie went on to explain the lack of snow load this year has left the ground unsaturated, and allowed for grasses to stand tall and dry out, instead of flattening down.

Sunday’s St. Paddy’s Day festivities were still underway when a 12:48 pm tone rang out at the Roxbury Fire Department.  With the majority of the firefighters and trucks at the parade in Halcottsville, it was a scramble to reach the Denver brush fire.

Roxbury Fire Dept Hville parade 2016

Roxbury Volunteer Fire Department in Halcottsville St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Den1ver brush fire

Smoke in the valley

Denver brush fire 3

Brush fire at 23 Slauson Hollow Rd. of Salley’s Alley, Denver NY

Denver brush fire 2

Extinguishing the flames

denver brush fire 4

According to  Chief Davie, fire took less then 20 minutes to put out completely

Chief Davie reported the resident of the house below the caught field had been burning a bit of brush in a barrel, and a spark flew.

“People need to be aware and pay attention…there is a brush fire in Davenport [Delaware County] right now…there could possibly be 1/2 a dozen fires by the end of today,” said Davie.

The NYDEC has issued a burn ban beginning March 16, 2016 and ending May 14, 2016.

According to the March 13 press release “all residential brush burning is prohibited in smaller communities during the state’s historically high fire-risk period from March 16 through May 14,” said  state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens.

“This time of year has the most risk of fires and the risk is even greater this year due to the extremely mild winter we’ve seen across the state,” Commissioner Martens said.

hville st p day parade mr saftey 2016

Ignoring the ban is a serious offense:

Violators of the open burning state regulation are subject to both criminal and civil enforcement actions, with a minimum fine of $500 for a first offense. To report environmental law violations call 1-800-TIPP DEC (1-800-847-7332), or report online on DEC’s website.

“It’s a danger zone right now,” said  Fire Chief Ken Davie.

Parade photos by Mark Andre  |  Fire photos by Rebecca Andre

 

Artie Martello – Man of magic and music

Catskills Interviews

Sometimes the secret is better than the trick itself.

Artie Martello at open eye

Martello at Open Eye Theatre

Artie Martello has been a magician for parts of five decades.  Martello is also the soothing voice and producer behind “Mostly Folk”, a regular podcast that showcases musical talent to the world over.

In his Halcottsville, Delaware County, NY community of the Catskills, Martello goes by “Artie”.  He is, of course, the go-to magic and music man of the area.

Sitting down for a chat with Martello at the Mostly Folk Studio, which is nestled in a private, wooded, mountain-top miniature paradise, is an experience all to its own.  Martello’s credentials are amazing, and weave themselves in and out of the narrative of how he came to be known as ‘Magic’.

“I’ve been an entertainer all my life.  Any teacher is an entertainer.”

Starting in 1967, Martello worked as Supervisor of Speech and Hearing at St. Francis de Sales School for the Deaf .

“Deafness is probably one of the most severe handicaps,” says Martello.  “To be born deaf is probably the most debilitating.”

Yet this is the audience for which he first choose to perform his magic.  In the classroom, at school assemblies, etc, thusly dubbed ‘Magic’ by his students.

The deaf children were a tough audience.  They could not be distracted by vocal cues.  Martello honed his art before these good-natured critics resulting in the smooth slight-of-hand and manipulation we see in his acts today.

The Raising of  a Magician

Many people get into magic because they are shy.  Believe it or not, I’m an introvert.  But I can get on a stage and entertain and interact and act…and that is the essence.

In the early days of television, Ed Sullivan was the master of showcasing true talent.  Martello remembers watching Cardini (Richard Valentine Pitchford) stumble onto stage, seemingly inebriated, dressed to the hilt in a top hat and white gloves, wowing the audience with his never ending supply of cards and cigarettes that would disappear to, or appear from, thin air. 

“I saw that, I thought, I want to learn that.  And eventually, I did learn,” remembers Martello, as he names Cardini  one of his “greatest influences.”

At age 10, fate moved in and moved along the budding magician.  For right next door to the Martello’s new family home in Woodhaven, Queens, was a Navy magician.

“He would show me simple card tricks, and I would go out of my mind,” says Martello of the most magical influence of his young life.  This Navy magician kindled young Martello’s interest in magic by also giving him the magician’s Bible at the time, “The Modern Conjuror” by Charles Lang Neil.

From Martello's Magic Book Collection

From Martello’s Magic Book Collection

Life eventually got in the way of Martello’s interest in magic, until he reached his early 30’s, and Doug Henning started performing magic on TV.  This grabbed his interest, and Martello once again found his love for magic ignited. Purchasing magic tricks and practicing/performing on his students became the norm.  Eventually he  was doing library shows and stage performances.

Of the different branches of magic: stage (think Las Vegas), TV only (think David Blaine), birthday party  & educational (think traveling with lots of props), and parlor magic (think small private parties with fancy guests) Martello’s favorite became parlor magic.

But the real reason Martello became a magician is simple.  He explains in all sincerity, if the day were to come when a woman asked if he was a magician, he wanted to be able to answer truthfully: “Yes, because when I look at you, every one else disappears.”

IMG_3170

Artie Martello, photo by his son, Timothy

Magic moves to the Catskills

I love this area.  And I hate the beach.  This is the kind of environment I enjoy.

Performing professionally (for money) didn’t really happen until Martello’s full time move to the Catskills in 1999.  After teaching at NYU, Hunter College and St. Joseph’s, Martello decided he wanted to spend more then just summers in the Catskills.  He also served as the Chairperson of the Committee On Special Education in the Margaretville School District for 9 years.

While his friends fled to the Hampton’s in the summertime, Martello came to the Catskills, not because of Woodstock, but in spite of Woodstock, remembering instead the boarding houses his family rented in Cairo that he visited as a child.

Starting out in Pine Hill, and eventually locating to the paradisiacal property in Halcottsville, those first years found Martello staying in a tent, then the shell of his house, serviced by an outhouse and the water he carted up from Hubbell’s artesian well down the road.  The home that started out as a shell in 1972 slowly morphed into the residence of solitude he and his wife Rain now enjoy.

Magic for a Cause

For me, magic isn’t about big illusions, its about entertaining people, making them laugh.

Nowadays, most of Martello’s performances are geared towards charity and  fundraising, despite the fact that the New York State Council for the Arts does not consider magic a performing art.  This is contradiction  to the fact that the United States Congress has officially declared magic as a performing art.

What does this mean for Martello personally?  NYS funded art programs are not contributing to paying for his charity performances. 

Yes, he still is willing to perform for money, but most would find compensating a seasoned magician of his caliber for time, energy and experience just a bit out of their price range. 

“$500.00 for an hour and a half show is reasonable,” says Martello, uncomfortably shifting in his chair. “You get what you pay for.”

“I have a tremendous inventory of magic,” explains Martello.  For example, his snake basket is worth $300.00.  And the box of cards in a bottle made and sold by his friend Jaime Grant goes for $100.00. Good magic costs good money, for two main reasons.  First, the cost keeps the magic out of YouTube hobbyists and those that look to expose the tricks. Second, the time investment in practicing.   Six months of practice goes into just one show.

Artie Martello Wizard smaller

Props, props and more props…

Mostly Folk Studio puppet smaller

‘David’ carved by Martello himself, ala Michelangelo

Mostly Folk Studio puppet 1 smaller

Replica of ‘Jerry Mahoney’ who starred in his own TV show of the with owner Paul Winchell, circa 1960

“[The show] may seem extemporaneous.  Its not. It’s scripted and planned, and then I insert what is right for the moment.”  In fact, that audience interaction Martello sculpts so artfully is one of the things he loves most about magic.

Then there is the loading, hauling, unloading and back again of stage props.  At 72, or any age for that matter, this is a most arduous task.

So instead of using magic as a source of income, Martello uses it to give back to the community: an annual show for the Open Eye Theatre in Margaretville, along with a show he has done to support the Heart of the Catskills Humane Society are just two examples. 

This coming spring 2016, Martello plans to perform an adult-only magic show  to raise money for the Halcottsville Fire Department.  Keep an eye on the HFD facebook page for details!

The Magic of Mostly Folk

My friends wanted to hear this kind of music.  So that’s what I did.

Martello’s background of listening to early rock & roll and graduating to folk rock led to his love for folk music.  On the radio, he found a disconnect – no stations were playing this type of music.  When an opportunity presented itself to do a radio program at a local station, he decided folk would be his niche.

Well, Mostly Folk.  Mixed in with a bit of Indie Rock, Country and magic, of course.

'Mostly Folk' Studio

‘Mostly Folk’ Studio

After his almost four year stint with local radio, Mr. Martello moved toward an industrious undertaking: bringing Mostly Folk into the modern digital listening arena.  He is currently pulling off perhaps one of his greatest feats yet:  a world wide podcast broadcast from a little hamlet in the North Western Catskills.

About three times a week, the self-funded Mostly Folk studio puts out meticulously produced shows that showcase new, local, or little-heard artists in the folk and indie world.  Truly a gem, Mostly Folk has led to new friends and new fans in the music industry, connections crossing over distance and age.  Listeners in Australia, China, Alabama or the Catskills are treated to the smooth intros of Mr. Martello and the music he chooses to put together for each hour/hour and a half show he produces.

“The podcast has afforded me an opportunity to allow anybody who wants to listen to just click, and listen.  Anytime. It’s always there, it never goes away.”

If that isn’t magic, what is?

*******

List of Links:

Magic Website

Mostly Folk Website

Halcottsville Fire Department – Upcoming Fundraiser

Find Artie on:

Itunes

Mixcloud

Facebook

Twitter

All photos ©2016 Rebecca Andre

 

Wild Child in Woodstock 1.22.16

Catskills Music

Austin-based band Wild Child found their way to Woodstock  in the Catskills of New York for Radio Woodstock 100.1 Lunch Lounge.  Van break-downs and ice aside, on Friday, January 22, the Indie Rock band took over the stage with a plethora of instruments and a spirited energy.

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Wild Child, Left-Right: Evan Majers, Keyboard | Jay Goodman, Bass | Alexander Beggins, Ukulele & Lead Vocals | Kelsey Wilson, Lead Vocals & Violin | Alex Beckmann, Drums | Matt Bradshaw, Banjo & Trumpet | Sadie Wolfe, Cello

Promoting their third album ‘Fools‘ (Dualtone), they kicked off the mini-concert with Bullets, a song showcasing their ability to turn the saddest story into an upbeat lyrical therapy session.  Matt Bradshaw’s optimistic trumpet solo lifted the entire mood.

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Kelsey Wilson

Moving on to the title track, Fools, barefoot Kelsey Wilson’s repetition of “If you have to go, I’ll play the fool,” became a mantra of acceptance and positivity that accompanied Sadie Wolfe’s artful cello. Along with the chorus, bassist Jay Goodman mades sure this song stays in your head and in your heart. (Note: bass recorded by Chris D’Annunzio on the album itself).

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Jay Goodman | Alexander Beggins | Kelsey Wilson | Alex Beckmann

Their third song, Meadows, actually #5 on the new album, highlighted the incredible writing team that is  Kelsey Wilson and Alexander Beggins (uke & lead vocals).  Wilson and Beggins co-wrote every song on this album, with the exception of Fools and The Cracks, of which the entire band contributed.

Then came Break Bones, a “fight-fair” song with a dramatic introduction by keyboardist Evan Magers and Alex Beckmann on drums (note: Drew Brunetti recorded the drums for the album itself.)  Incredible lyrics with meaningful harmonies:  “There is more breaking here then we could ever mend.”  Just a stellar line, highlighting the power our words can have on our loved ones. This crew does not fear digging deep, and sharing their lessons.

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Sadie Wolfe

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Matt Bradshaw | Sadie Wolfe

Reno, mellow and reminiscent, pleases us with solid strings.  Towards the end of the song there was a dance between the purposeful picking of the ukulele and an almost melancholy cello.  A stunning juxtaposition.

Ending the concert with the  #4 track Stones, we were treated to the harmonious vocal duo of Wilson and Beggins.

All are encouraged to visit Wild Child’s website and get their hands and ears on this album. The listener will undeniably be reminded of the vocalizations that branded the Irish alternative rock band The Cranberries. Each track is a song-writing gem of its own merit, and each instrument finds a perfect home in this wild family of buoyant diversity.

-Rebecca Andre

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Wild Child in Woodstock 1.22.16