Monday, August 20, 2007

Sam Bush, Infamous Stringdusters Led Otis Mountain

By Ted Lehmann

Saturday evening August 18th at the Otis Mountain Music Festival in Elizabethtown, NY was cool and clear, but neither the fans nor the bands felt cold as the Sam Bush Band and the Infamous Stringdusters heated up the night. Promoter Jeff Allot has worked hard to make this small festival in the rugged Adirondack Mountains a success. In bringing one of the great bands of bluegrass history as well as one of the hottest young bands on the circuit together for a day, Allot scored a huge artistic success. Whether this proves to be a financial success and allows him to continue this great festival remains to be seen, but this festival deserves support and encouragement.

The closing jam provided one of those thrilling moments that may only happen in bluegrass festivals. In the encore, Sam invited the Stringdusters to join him and they jammed for half an hour to the delight of the crowd that whooped it up for more. It was simply a great night. The New England Bluegrass Band, Big Spike, and Three Doug Knight all deserve credit too.

Ed: Above is a shot Ted took of the New England Bluegrass Band. More pictures from the Otis Mountain festival can be seen on his blog here.


Thursday, August 16, 2007

Bridge Collapse Recalls Historic Adirondack Disaster

The recent collapse of the bridge spanning the Mississippi River at Minneapolis brought to mind the tragic history of similar events in the Adirondacks.

Workers building the historic Stone Arch Bridge (photo above from the late 1800s) over the Ausable River in Keeseville had a close call in 1842. The bridge of native stone, believed at the time to be the largest such bridge in the country, was being built to replace the original wooden structure erected in 1805. The men had completed the first course of stone including the keystones and had nearly finished the second course when a violent storm blew in. Just as more then 30 men fled the storm’s heavy rain to a wooden shed on the bank of the river the entire bridge collapsed into the Ausable with a thunderous crash. The tremendous crash was said to have shaken buildings as far away as Port Kent.

Delays in the construction of the bridge caused by the collapse inadvertently caused a more tragic accident that same year. On local militia “muster day,” September 13, 1842, the unfinished bridge caused the Essex County militia to cross a smaller swinging bridge (supported by chains) nearby. The bridge was filled with bystanders as they marched across in lock step. It’s believed the overloaded bridge combined with the stamping feet of the marchers caused the bridge to collapse into the churning river below. Local newspapers reported that nine people were drowned, and four later died of exposure. Two boys, Richard Pope and Richard Peabody, were swept over a nearby dam with their arms around each other and were among those drowned.

A similar accident twice befell the men building what was then longest bridge in the world (3,239 feet) over the St. Lawrence River at Quebec. As one of the enormous spans was being raised from pontoons, it gave way and crashed into the river taking with it fifty men. Observers said the central span, weighing more than 5,000 tons, buckled at the center before it fell. At least five were killed. The accident occurred in 1916, but just nine years before a similar accident on the same bridge killed 70.In the spring of 1931 the Whallonsburg bridge, which carried much of the Albany-Montreal traffic over the Bouquet River in Essex County, collapsed while Robert O’Neil of Willsboro was crossing. O’Neil’s car fell nearly twelve feet but he escaped uninjured. The bridge’s steel trusses slipped from one of its abutments. The next day four boys were sitting on the railing of the wrecked bridge when it gave way and they went into the water. Kenneth McDougall was knocked unconscious from a serious head injury but the others escaped relatively unharmed. The photo at right shows the new abutments, made of rough quartzite from Champlain Stone.The 1842 Chain Bridge Collapse ranks among the deadliest accidents ever in the Adirondack region. Read more about the others here.


Thursday, August 9, 2007

Otis Mountain Music Festival – Preview

The Otis Mountain Music Festival will hold its fifth annual event on August 17th and 18th in Elizabethtown, NY along route 9 between the route 73 split and Elizabethtown. This festival has been moving its date and searching for an identity which will sell in this huge rural county within the Adirondack Park in northern New York. It remains to be seen whether scheduling two of the most popular and progressive bluegrass bands in this venue will bring in the crowds needed to make this event pay. I can only hope. In scheduling the great, established Sam Bush Band and the wonderful emerging band The Infamous Stringdusters to appear on Saturday, promoter Jeff Allot is offering a day of the very finest progressive bluegrass that can be found. He is also offering an interesting, if little known, supporting cast ranging from traditional bluegrass to indie/rock that may hit the spot or fail to please.

The setting of the Otis Mountain Festival could not be any more beautiful. The band stand sits at the base of a gentle ski hill which slopes upward and away to form a natural amphitheater. There is plenty of room for people to see the bands and, I understand, an area has been set aside to permit dancing without interfering with viewing and listening. In the past, this festival has featured excellent food venders featuring offerings several cuts above the usual fair food served at bluegrass and music festivals. There is rough camping available and good transportation from the rather remote parking areas and the festival site. Allot has gone to great lengths to make this event one in which there has been extensive community involvement, and, in its 2005 version, succeeded admirably. Last year he changed the date to conflict with another New York State festival, which we chose to attend. This year he has again chosen a new date. I thought the weekend after Labor Day was a great date to hold a festival, but apparently it didn’t draw sufficient crowds, and it was chilly at night. Perhaps finding a regular date and keeping it would be a good way to build the festival audience.

Sam Bush is one of the most important influences in bluegrass music since its invention by Bill Monroe. With the establishment of The New Grass Revival in 1971, bluegrass opened itself to the new sounds coming from Rock and Roll bringing new sounds, rhythms, and themes into the acoustic music Monroe had pioneered and whose influence continues to dominate the genre. In his history of bluegrass, Neil V. Rosenberg points out that the musicians have always been out ahead of the fans of bluegrass music in their willingness to explore new approaches to the music. For more than 35 years, Sam Bush has been in the lead. He has introduced electric instruments and drums to the genre without ever bending it too far from its roots. His mandolin and fiddle playing are extraordinary. His current band, with Scott Vestal on banjo, Byron House on bass, Chris Brown on Drums, and Stephen Mougin on guitar continues in the tradition Bush has established, but the band is really Sam Bush. The list of performers Bush has played with forms a who’s who of bluegrass and country music greats.


While the Sam Bush Band represents the genesis and progress of modern bluegrass music, The Infamous Stringdusters stand for the state of the art. Composed of a group of players, several of whom studied at the famed Berklee School of Music in Boston, this fast rising group has taken the country by storm during the past eighteen months. I have written about their debut album “Fork in the Road” here. They still need to establish a solid record of ongoing accomplishment, but this first recording is better than a good start. Otis Mountain gives listeners one of their last chances to hear and see the original band, as brilliant flat-picking guitarist Chris Eldridge is leaving the band to join Chris Thile. Eldridge represents a link between the past and the future. He’s the son of Ben Eldridge, an original and continuing member of The Seldom Scene, who is acknowledged as a master of innovation on the banjo. Chris Eldridge appears to be in some other world as his wonderful solos and oh-so-solid rhythm guitar contribute mightily to the Stringdusters’ drive and style. Banjo player Chris Pandolfi is the first banjo graduate of the Berklee School of Music, perhaps the premier school for contemporary jazz, rock, and pop musicians today. Jeremy Garrett on fiddle comes from Idaho where he was a member of his father’s band The Grasshoppers, and he studied at South Plains College in Texas, where there is a well-known bluegrass program. Garrett sings lead and plays fiddle. Jesse Cobb, on mandolin, also comes from a family of bluegrass musicians. Andy Hall on Dobro and providing lead vocals is also a graduate of Berklee, where he majored in Music Production and Engineering. Finally, Travis Book, the newest member of the band on bass, comes from Colorado, where he was recognized for his playing as well as his lead singing. This band came together after all its members had moved to Nashville and established themselves with a variety of touring bands as well as studio musicians. Their collaboration grew out of jamming in the rich Nashville scene and his matured as they formed the Stringdusters and have worked to forge a distinctive sound and style. As a band they are still maturing and should provide years of delightful surprises to
thoughtful and informed listeners.

As might be expected with two such budget busting bands, the remainder of the lineup emphasizes either bands you haven’t heard of or local/regional bands that don’t have to travel too far or demand too much to appear. This does not, however, mean you won’t find something worth listening to. Big Spike, acting as host band this weekend, comes from Vermont and seeks to recreate the sounds of bluegrass and country music as it existed at about the time bluegrass began to distinguish itself as a sub-genre within the country music rubric. According to their web site “The band aims to recreate a sound that is long gone from country music, a sound closer to the honky-tonk and early bluegrass sound of the 50’s than it is to what’s played in Nashville today.” They are justly familiar to bluegrass fans around New York and New England.

Similarly, The New England Bluegrass Band, while best known in its namesake region, consists of excellent musicians presenting music in mostly traditional formats. They have recently been joined by Ashleigh Caudill, a new graduate of Berklee School of Music on bass and vocals. Joe Walsh, new mandolin player for the group, is also a student at Berklee. Since the Infamous Stringdusters are on the bill here, I wouldn’t be too surprised to see Chris Pandolfi sitting in with the group, too. Lincoln Myers, Ron Cody, and Cecil Abels are long term members of this excellent bluegrass band. All the members have experiences that cross genres and also have considerable range within bluegrass. You can expect first class sets from this band on Saturday.

Three Doug Knight is a local bluegrass band that provides very satisfactory covers of bluegrass standards as well amusing songs written by guitar player Speedy Arnold. They will provide more than satisfactory sets on both Friday and Saturday. For me, Wild By Nature, Greenwich Mean Time, and Crossing North are unknown quantities. You can find a little more information on Greenwich Mean Time here at their MySpace entry. They provide a couple of cuts from their catalog. Their blurb seems determined not to provide any useful information about them except that they come from Olympia, WA. Crossing North is a duo based in Plattsburgh, NY. You can hear some of their cuts here.

Tickets to the Otis Mtn. Music Festival are $24 advance until August 18th and then $29 at the gate. The Festival map can be found here. This eclectic festival looks like a really good bet. Between two great national bands, some pretty well-known regional bands, and some new experiences, you won’t be wasting your time.


Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Local Olympic Hero Jack Shea: Camels Relieve Fatigue

Behold, Jack Shea, local Olympic hero declares in this classic ad that Camel cigarettes “relieve fatigue.” Now we know how Shea became the first Olympian to win two gold medals in the same Olympics – a feat he accomplished during the 1932 games at Lake Placid. The ad is courtesy of www.weirdomatic.com (via Boing Boing).

According to wikipedia:

Shea chose not to defend his Olympic titles at the 1936 Winter Olympics in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, at the request of a Lake Placid rabbi for it would be in poor taste to be so “over-zealous.”
One wonders what role the Nazi Olympics controversy had in the rabbi’s urgings.

Shea twice served as the Olympic Regional Development Authority chair. From 1958 to 1974, he was a town justice, and from 1974 until his retirement in 1983 he was the supervisor of North Elba.

His son, Jim Shea, Sr., was a 1964 Olympian in Nordic skiing and his grandson, Jim Shea, Jr. was a 2002 Olympic skeleton gold medalist.

Jack Shea carried the Olympic torch into Lake Placid in 2002 but was tragically killed in a head-on car crash with a drunk driver just before his grandson won the gold.


Monday, August 6, 2007

Fox Family Bluegrass Festival – Preview

The 18th Annual Fox Family Bluegrass Festival will take place August 9 – 12, 2007 in Old Forge, NY. The Fox Family’s home is in the Adirondacks, even though they have relocated to Nashville. Fronted by the wonderful voice of Kim Fox, this band continues to host a traditional bluegrass festival. Accommodations are limited and the camping is rough. There are no hookups and the nearest shower requires a drive of several miles. Old Forge is located here, in the southwest corner of the massive Adirondack Park, close to the New York Thruway and I-81. The Adirondack Park, a six million acre state park, is the largest wilderness area east of the Mississippi River, a vast tract of woods, mountain, and lakes. Because many people harbor stereotypes about New York, few recognize that this magnificent wilderness lies with only a few hours’ drive of millions of people in the northeast and the Midwest.

IIIrd Tyme Out

Headline bands, in addition to the host band Fox Family, are IIIrd Tyme Out, Jr. Sisk & Rambler Choice, reunited and on tour, and The Gibson Brothers, one a local band but now a national band of growing popularity which retains its loyalty to the local festivals that booked them when they weren’t so big. It’s hard to tell just now who will turn up with IIIrd Tyme Out. Founded and fronted by Ray Deaton, Bassist and premier bass singer, has announced he is leaving the band and The Bluegrass Blog announces here that Edgar Loudermilk has replaced him. Deaton originally said he would stay the season, but has moved up his change. Mandolinist Alan Perdue has been replaced by mandolin master Wayne Benson, which will add considerable depth to the band. Russell Moore is a long-time standout on vocals and rhythm guitar. Steve Dilling has been with the band on banjo for sixteen years. He’s struggling with distonia, but an injured Dilling is still better than most banjo players. All-in-all, despite their recent changes, IIIrd Tyme Out should continue as a very strong band. It’s always interesting to see how a changing band develops. Watch them on stage as they discover new ways to present their music through the addition of new musicians.

Jr. Sisk has long been one of the premier voices in bluegrass music. When Blueridge broke up as Alan Bibey left to help form Grasstowne and Alan Johnson moved on to Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver (side note: Isn’t it interesting how many bands have former Quicksilver players and how this particular festival features several of them?) Jr. Sisk reconstituted Rambler’s Choice and began to tour with them. This group made one recording with Rounder in 1998. Junior, a resident of Virginia, played with the Lonesome River Band in their early days as well as with Wyatt Rice & Santa Cruz. His distinctive high lonesome tenor and solid rhythm guitar have added depth and character to every band he has played with.

Sarah Jarosz is a fourteen year old mandolin player who lives in Austin, TX. She has received a lot of recognition in IBMA’s effort to promote younger artists. There are a lot of young, female mandolin players out there just now. Sierra Hull and Jessica Lovell are just two of a growing number. Sarah Jarosz has joined this group. If half of Sarah’s professional friends on her MySpace page have seen and heard her, she’s likely to be worth your time, too. Aiophe Donavan of Crooked Still offers quite a comment.

The Gibson Brothers

The Gibson Brothers of course need no introduction to readers of this blog. Simply put, we believe this group is among the premier bluegrass bands in the nation. As their national recognition increases, they have lit up audiences from Yakima Washington to Myrtle Beach. No longer a regional band, the Gibsons originated in Ellenburg Depot, NY, only a few miles south of the Canadian border, but their characteristic brother harmonies and very strong instrumental support are without peer. Watch Eric Gibson, who is one of the few lead singers who picks effectively while singing. He has yet to receive adequate recognition for his fine banjo work. Listen to brother Leigh, whose voice blends with Eric’s as only brothers can. Both brothers write wonderful songs and their background and taste has led them to create new bluegrass sounds from classic country and rock and roll. Bassist Mike Barber, mandolin player Rick Hayes, and fiddler Clayton Campbell add depth and taste to this superior band. The variety of their sounds, harmonies, and keys takes them beyond bluegrass while never straying very far from their roots.

A huge revelation that comes almost every time we attend a local festival is the reminder that there are so many fine bluegrass bands around. While people think of New York as urban and ethnic, the state is home to many bands rooted in country and bluegrass music. These bands are well-represented at the Fox Family Festival.

Local bands include The Atkinson Family, whose delightful music, much of it written by father Dick ]Atkinson, combines country and bluegrass with a northern New York tone that fits right in here. His song about losing the farm should be a classic. The review in Bluegrass Unlimited noted, “Tearin’ Up the Line is a stellar production that will surely generate many new friends for the group.”

The Dalaney Brothers describe themselves as a contemporary bluegrass band that has played around New York State for the past 25 years. Over the years, they have recorded five albums. Recently they replaced two longtime members for medical reasons. The New York Times named Full Spectrum as one of the top ten local releases in 2000.

Sweet Cider describes itself as “ rooted in vocal harmony, attention to arrangement and original material. They now perform their own style of acoustic music with that ever-present bluegrass flavor. The Northeast Country Music Association has named them CMA bluegrass band of the year several times, and they have been inducted into the NE CMA hall of fame as well as receiving other awards. They hail from Rotterdam, NY along the NY Thruway.

Miller’s Crossing is a Long Island bluegrass band whose sound, according to the cuts on their web site, is traditional southern. Their lead vocalist has a pleasant voice and instrumentals are strong. “Miller’s crossing prides itself on the original material eachmember brings to the band’s repertoire. They strive to play bluegrass music the way they feel it, and the result is a fesh outlook on the music while not getting to far away from its roots.” The McCarthy/Paisley Band from Elbridge, NY advertises itself as featuring traditional Americana and contemporary folk music.

Off the Wall’s entry at ibluegrass says, “Blending folk, bluegrass and traditional country into a unique, no frills sound that lends itself to the works of John Prine, Guy Clark, Tim O’Brien and the Seldom Scene, as well as the works of more obscure songwriters. Add to that, strong vocals and tight harmonies, you have the makings of enjoyable music that tells the story of lifes journey.” They come from central New York.

Bill Knowlton and Lisa Husted will emcee. Tickets are $75.00 for the entire festival, including rough camping. Day passes are $20.00 for Thursday, $30.00 a day for Friday and Saturday, and $15.00 for Sunday. Gates open for camping on a first come, first served basis at 10:00 AM on Wednesday and there is no reserving of spaces for others. A dump station and showers are available nearby, but there are no amenities for campers on the site. This festival has one of the most interesting and varied programs for young people of any bluegrass event, showing their interest in and concern for children’s enjoyment and providing alternatives for parents wishing to give their children a good time. For additional information, check out the Fox Family Bluegrass Festival’s web site.

Some pictures for this post were taken from band web sites. I will remove them immediately upon request.


Thursday, August 2, 2007

Keene Valley Fire Dept’s Annual Field Day

By

The 2000 census lists the population of Keene Valley, NY at 1063. In summer the population nearly triples, and this influx of summer residents is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a curse because the village is largely dependent on the business generated by summer residents and taxes raised from these (generally) wealthy summer people to fund its necessary and more optional institutions.

Furthermore, pressure to buy land and build second homes on it has driven the cost of living here to levels that make it nearly impossible for young locals to stay at home, work, and raise families. It’s a blessing, because the money makes it possible for this village to thrive in many ways, providing retail opportunities, service, and government jobs that otherwise might not be available.


Essex County, located in the northern corner of the Adirondack Park, is huge, about 500 square miles larger than Rhode Island, but has amassed a population of only 38,000. This rural village in the heart of the Adirondack wilderness is a thriving and lively place and the home of the annual Keene Valley Fire Department Field Day. Volunteer fire departments in the US are facing something of a crisis. Volunteerism has declined while the performance standards for membership have risen. Members of volunteer fire departments, at least in New York, must constantly train to upgrade their skills and raise money to upgrade their equipment. But a village like Keene Valley would be in jeopardy if it weren’t for the existence of the KVFD and its ambulance/rescue squad. Almost all the housing in the village and on the surrounding hills is wood frame. The nearest hospital is thirteen miles away. Without the fire department and the ambulance squad, houses would burn and people would die.

Each year on the last Sunday in July the KVFD holds its annual field day. After years of running this annual event, the Fire Department has got it down to a science. The day begins with a demonstration of fire fighting and rescue equipment and techniques. Continues with a range of activities for young children, including face painting and Tim Dumas, a magician, offers a variety of raffles and Chinese auctions with small and large prizes donated by local businesses, and culminates with a widely known and justly appreciated barbecue chicken dinner, which each year sells around 600 meals, many eaten in the fire house meeting room, while others are taken home.

A local bluegrass band, Three Doug Night, plays bluegrass through the late afternoon and early evening. Several 50/50 drawings are held during the day with half the proceeds going to the fire company and half to each lucky winner. All is calculated to encourage people attending the event to gladly let loose of goodly amounts of cash in an easy and enjoyable way to provide needed support for the fire company. Big sellers each year are the KVFD t-shirts, collected and prized by local and summer people alike. Beer flows. Music abounds, Drinking laws are enforced. People come for the party and stay to spend. While the Keene Valley Fire District is tax supported and pays the major portion of the fixed costs of operating the fire company and ambulance squad, the fire department itself runs the field day. Proceeds from this event are often earmarked for purchasing a specific, needed piece of equipment or helping defray additional costs not covered by tax revenue. As such, the Field Day stands as the major annual fund raiser for the fire company.

Perhaps as interesting as the economic needs met by this annual party are its social implications. While it has narrowed in recent years, a social and economic gulf between local residents and summer visitors has long existed. Summer people come to stay in their cottages and purchase services, which they expect to be prompt and efficient. Local people offer these services, but the gulf cannot be denied. That is, except on field days. It’s as if the fire department serves as a leveling ground, providing a place where people can meet on neutral ground and, for a fairly brief time, interact on a more equal than usual basis. Captains of industry, construction workers, media moguls, corrections officers, retired military officers, retired town workers, slackers, entrepreneurs, you name it; they’re all here. Some may seem like out of place creatures checking out the “local scene,” but real affection and cordiality is also plainly in evidence. Relationships in this community run deep and old and have a long history. They are complex and convoluted, perhaps more the stuff of a novel than a blog entry. The American story of narrowing the gulf between classes and economic status is writ large in this gathering.

In recent years the KVFD Field Day has become more contained and less wild. The hours have been shortened, beer sales curtailed, kids activities increased, bluegrass music added, and a community party has been established. Next year marks the 100th anniversary of the Keene Valley Fire Department. You should mark your calendar, too.


Sunday, July 29, 2007

Adirondack Genealogy: Researching Local Family Roots

Despite exaggerated claims that genealogy is one of America’s favorite past times, researching family history has become popular enough to generate tens of millions of web pages devoted to the topic.

A Google search for “genealogy” yielded 35.6 million results

Sports” yielded 710 million results
Coins” yielded 82.3 million results
Stamps” yielded 73 million results
Adirondacks” yielded 2 million results
Adirondack” yielded 5.3 million results
Adirondack genealogy” yielded zero results

Here’s a quick review of free Adirondack genealogy sites that provide resources for the local family historian. If you have some locally important sites to add, just drop us a note at adkalmanack -AT- gmail -DOT- COM.

The Northern New York Library Network has made available (and searchable!) more than half a million pages from 25 area newspapers and counting. It’s one of the most important historical resources for the Adirondack region.

Microsoft’s Live Search Books, Google’s Book Search, the Library of Congress’s American Memory, and Cornell University’s Making of America sites, although nationally oriented, all have amazing collections of full text books and periodicals related to the Adirondacks. Search for your specific surname or location and you’ll be surprised at what you’ll find!

www.usgenweb.org is perhaps the largest and most important free site for American genealogy. Broken into states, and then counties, the site features user submitted wills, census transcriptions, vital records, and more. It’s a great place to start your online Adirondack genealogical journey. Here is a link to New York’s counties.

Of course don’t forget your local library as an offline starting point and general guide to your Adirondack family history. The two most important library sites in the Adirondacks are those of the Southern Adirondack Library System and the Northern New York Library Network. You can get inter-library loans of microfilm and other reference books, and each local library usually has nice local history collection.

When you need help getting a pipe fixed, you find a plumber. When you need help with history, go to a historian. Be sure to meet and explore the minds and collections held by your local historians and local historical society. Each county site has contact info for them – they can answer basic questions regarding local history and many have indexes and access to local records.

Lastly, before we get started on the local sites, you should become familiar with the best way to document your family history. The research is most fruitful when you can pass it on to someone else for their enjoyment – write it down and use footnotes. Cyndi’s List has a large collection of links to help you write engaging and accurate family history.

Here are the most significant links county by county. I’ve noted a few of the highlights, but you’ll need some serious time to delve into all the resources available on each site.

Warren County – Perhaps the best site in the Adirondacks. Tim Varney has compiled an impressive set of resources, frequently updated and growing all the time. One recent impressive addition is the transcription of H.P. Smith’s History of Warren County. The County Clerk’s office has also been digitizing and making available some of the records they hold.

Essex County – Fred Provoncha has taken over the Essex County pages. They offer some gems, including transcriptions of many of the county’s cemeteries.

St. Lawrence County – Norm Young and Russ Sprague maintain a site that includes a nice index of Cutter’s Genealogy of Northern New York from 1910.

Franklin County – Is up for adoption by someone with web skills who can maintain a site that already includes some great resources like an index to Those Were The Days-A History of Bangor, NY.

Clinton County – Check out the 1841 Gazetteer of Clinton County! Maintained by Marion McCreadie.

Hamilton County – Lisa Slaski is coordinator for this site which is one of the most useful of the bunch. Check out the biographies of local residents. Indian Lake Town Historian Bill Zullo also has a site with plenty of local historical resources.

Herkimer and Montgomery counties share a site maintained by Martha S. Magill and Lisa Slaski. A Look at what they recently added to the site will give you a sense of how much hard work they’ve been doing. Check out their transcribed “newsy tidbits from local newspapers” for a real historical and genealogical treat. Also, check out the Fulton Montgomery Photo Archives – it’s quite a collection.

Lewis County – Even though the site’s coordinator Sandy is not from New York, the web page contains some great photos and a killer Lowville Business directory from the mid-1800s.

Jefferson County – Maintained by Nancy Dixon, this site features regular monthly additions. Check out the Jefferson County Pioneers page for bios of early Jefferson County settlers.

Oneida County – Betty Carpenter-McCulloch has grown the site over the past several years to include a amazing collection of cemetery and census transcriptions, and a lot more. One of it’s best features is the collection of links to Native American family history.

Saratoga County – No doubt because of its coordination by Heritage Hunters of Saratoga County and it’s nearness to civilization more generally, this county site is an incredible resource. Check out the list of Saratoga County Databases. Also new to Saratoga is the Saratoga Public Library’s Saratoga Room History Databases which include information on 19th Century Architecture, historical data about notable fires in Saratoga Springs involving prominent buildings, large losses, or loss of life, the index to Dr. Walter S. McClellan’s Scrapbooks about the formation and operation of the Saratoga Spa from 1931 through 1954, a list of unique Saratoga nicknames of the mid 20th century, an index to Print Collection in The Saratoga Room, and more.

Washington County – George A Jackson occasionally maintains a site. Unfortunately, Washington County is well behind the ball when it comes to putting their historic resources on line.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Working Families Party Makes North Country Endorsements

New York’s Working Families Party has been posting its endorsements throughout the state this past week. Here are the endorsements from the North Country Chapter which includes Jefferson, St. Lawrence, Franklin, Clinton, Essex and Hamilton counties.

To get involved with WFP in the Adirodack region contact Alex Rabb at 718-222-3796 or by e-mail at arabb AT votewfp DOT org

* City of Plattsburgh Council Member Ward 1
Timothy R. Carpenter

* City of Plattsburgh Council Member Ward 2
Mike Kelly

* City of Plattsburgh Council Member Ward 6
Chris Jackson

* County of Clinton County Legislator District 5
Keith Marvin Defayette

* County of Clinton County Legislator District 9
John William Gallagher

* County of Clinton Treasurer
Kimberly Kleist

* County of Jefferson County Legislator District 11
Doris C. McLallen

* County of Jefferson County Legislator District 3
Dean T. Morrow

* County of Jefferson County Legislator District 5
Cindy McNultry Ross

* County of St. Lawrence Sheriff
Gus Burns

* Town of Beekmantown Council Member
Sharron Garden

* Town of Beekmantown Highway Superintendent
Samuel R. Dyer

* Town of Chazy Council Member
Christopher W Latremore

* Town of Macomb Town Justice
Lafayette Young Jr.

* Town of Madrid Board Member
Bill Tyndall

* Town of Massena Council Member
John Martin Wicke

* Town of Morristown Board Member
Christopher B. T. Coffin

* Town of Plattsburgh Clerk
Amy Lynn Duquette

* Town of Plattsburgh Council Member
Tom Wood

* Town of Plattsburgh Supervisor
Bernard Charles Bassett

* Town of Plattsburgh Town Justice
Randa Buompensiero-Filion

* Town of Rutland Supervisor
Ronald H. Cole

* Town of Saranac Supervisor
Joe Gerardi


Monday, July 9, 2007

Adirondack Hacks

Randomly organized links to ideas for making life in the Adirondacks just a little bit easier – technology tools and tips, do-it-yourself projects, and anything else that offers a more interesting, more convenient, or healthier way of life in our region.

Make A Fishing Lure Necklace

Get A Bahco Clearing Axe

Make Shelves From An Old Futon

The 15 Coolest Firefox Tricks Ever

Five Things You Should Know When Buying Cigars

Adirondack Hacks is an occasional feature of Adirondack Almanack. Take a look at previous editions of Adirondack Hacks here.


Wednesday, July 4, 2007

ORDA: Lake Placid / Whiteface 2007-2008 Events

From ORDA’s recent press release:

The season will commence with World Cup luge. After a one-year absence, the world’s top sliders return to the two-time Winter Olympic village Nov. 15-18 at the Olympic Sports Complex. A brand new men’s luge start, to be constructed this summer at the track on Mt. Van Hoevenberg, will be employed for the first time in a major event. Under the banner of the International Luge Federation, races in men’s and women’s singles, doubles and the team event are on the Lake Placid slate.

One week later, Olympic gold medalist and skating legend Scott Hamilton will bring Smucker’s Stars on Ice back to the Olympic Center for the national debut of his 2007-08 tour. It will take place Saturday, Nov. 24, in the 1980 Rink Herb Brooks Arena.

The International Federation for Bobsleigh and Tobogganing has a World Cup bobsled and skeleton event on the Lake Placid course from Dec. 10-16. Men and women will compete in a total of five events down the mile-long, 20 turn chute of ice.

Athletes in these sports will continue to enjoy ORDA’s continuing efforts to protect the course from inclement weather as roofing will be added to more curves during the off-season.

In January, the scene changes to Whiteface and the Olympic Jumping Complex for three freestyle skiing events scheduled for Jan. 18-20. The International Ski Federation as well as the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association will conduct World Cup moguls on the Wilderness trail at Whiteface Jan. 18 and 20, while aerial skiing will occur on Jan. 19 at the jumping site in Lake Placid.

Whiteface skiers and riders will be counting down the days to the mountain’s 50th birthday celebration, officially on Jan. 28. But in reality, the party will last for weeks. It begins Jan. 25 and continues with theme weekends until March 8-9.

The Junior Luge World Championships will be contested back at Mt. Van Hoevenberg from Feb. 4-10 as the future stars of this exciting sport negotiate Lake Placid’s difficult track.

February also brings the annual Empire State Winter Games, where New Yorkers compete on the same 1980 Winter Olympic sites. Over 1,000 athletes will converge on the community Feb. 22-24.

March, in many years the best month of winter, maintains the pace with World Cup snowboarding at Whiteface March 1 and 3. The schedule brings snowboardcross to the Boreen trail on Saturday, while parallel giant slalom returns on Monday along Draper’s Drop.

The North American Series Alpine Skiing Finals will be held at Whiteface March 12-16, featuring up-and-coming skiers from the U.S., Canada and abroad.

The final major event is on tap March 22-23 when the 1980 Rink Herb Brooks Arena hosts the NCAA Men’s Div. III Ice Hockey Championships.

In addition to these headline events, during the 2007-08 season, ORDA will present:

• Continental Cup women’s ski jumping Aug. 29-30

• International Skating Union Junior Grand Prix Skating Aug. 30-Sept. 2

• Flaming Leaves Festival Ski Jumping Oct. 6-7

• Masters 90 Meter Ski Jump Dec. 29

• NY Ski Educational Foundation 120 Meter Ski Jump Dec. 30

• U.S. National Bobsled Championships Dec. 30-Jan. 6

• ISI Figure Skating Competition Jan. 17-19

• Continental Cup Skeleton Races Jan. 22-28

• Lake Placid Loppet Citizens Cross Country Ski Race Feb. 9

• Harlem Globetrotters Feb. 19

• New York State High School Alpine Skiing Championships Feb. 26-27

• Masters Alpine Skiing Regional Championships March 6-9

• International Bobsled and Skeleton Drivers School March 16-29

• Adult National Figure Skating Championships April 8-13


Monday, July 2, 2007

Adirondack Summer Music Festivals

The Adirondack region is home to a variety of summer music festivals. Tomorrow, bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley will be playing at the Wild Center’s second annual WildFest – which also marks the opening of the Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks‘ “Wings over the Adirondacks bird-themed experience.” Here are the details:

The free, day-long WildFest ‘07 celebration is scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m. and conclude at 4:00 p.m. so visitors can get home in time for evening fireworks. The live music begins at 10:30 a.m. and the ceremony to open Wings over the Adirondacks at 11:00 a.m. There will be an entire tent on the campus dedicated to bird presentations. Visitors will be treated to a preview of the Wild Center’s planned Bird Skywalk and Skytowers, and tours of what is now the ‘greenest’ building in the Adirondacks. When the Skywalk is complete in 2008, it will showcase nearly 100 bird exhibits, and will take visitors up to the top of the tree canopy.

WildFest’s musical headliners include legendary musician Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys and the great live performer Martin Sexton. Other bands will feature music from the places Adirondack birds migrate to, including the Caribbean.

There will be a children’s tent featuring the Zucchini Brothers, a musical group lauded as “the Beatles of kid music,” and a Bird Tent where birding organizations will help visitors see the world of birds. The day will include free flight bird shows with live birds.

This year’s moe.down (the 8th annual) promises to be a quite a festival:

Nearly 20 acts, including Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, The Roots, Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood, Amos Lee and Meat Puppets have signed on for this year’s moe.down.

The August 31 to September 2 festival will be held at the Snow Ridge Ski area in Turin, N.Y., at the edge of the Adirondack Mountains. Festival founders moe. will perform a total of six sets throughout the weekend.

Other acts on the roster for the three-day shindig include Uncle Earl, Strangefolk, State Radio, Al and the Transamericans, Rolla, Ryan Montbleau, Lotus, Ra Ra Riot, Ha Ha the Moose, The Brakes, VietNam and Acoustic Forum.

A limited number of tickets are available at $95 until they run out or until August 12, after which tickets will be $110. Full details on the festival and tickets can be found at www.moe.org/moedown.

This is the eighth year for the event, which promises three days of music, camping and all around fun. Ski lifts will be open during the festival, and fans are encouraged to bring their mountain bikes.

Regular reader Ted Lehmann over at Bluegrass, Books, and Brainstorms has written to let us know that he’ll be attending, photographing, and reviewing the first annual Mountain Meltdown in Saranac Lake (which ended yesterday), the Fox Family Bluegrass Festival (August 9, 10, 11, & 12, 2007 in Old Forge) and the Upper Hudson Bluegrass Festival in North Creek (August 24-26).

If there are other festivals we should know about, drop us a note.


Monday, June 25, 2007

2007 NY Legislative Results: Adirondack Edition

John Sheehan, of The Adirondack Council sent a set of e-mails outlining bills in the final days of the the State Legislature’s 2007 session that will have an impact on the Adirondacks. We’ll reprint part of his e-mails here for your information:

Raquette Lake Water Supply: On Wednesday June 20, at about 9:30 pm, the Assembly granted final passage to a Constitutional Amendment to allow the hamlet of Raquette Lake to construct its drinking water supply system on the “Forever Wild” Forest Preserve. Construction (aside from trailside lean-tos and ranger cabins) is currently banned on the Forest Preserve. This bill would give permission only to Raquette Lake, and requires the Town of Long Lake, in which the hamlet is located, to swap a similar tract of land to the state to make up for the lost acreage. The bill passed both houses in 2006 and now will be on the November 2007 statewide ballot. It does not require the Governor’s signature. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth Little, R-Queensbury, and Assem. Robert Sweeney, D-Lindenhurst, the Assembly EnCon chairman.

Route 56 Power Line Construction: The New York Power Authority is seeking permission from the public to construct a power supply line from Stark Falls Reservoir power dam in Colton, St. Lawrence County, to Tupper Lake, Franklin County, where power outages have been severe and frequent. NYPA has agreed to build the line along the side of Route 56, crossing an area of Forest Preserve, rather than detouring the line through an environmentally sensitive area containing endangered species, wetlands and an ancient white pine forest. In this case, the private lands around the Forest Preserve are wilder and in greater need of protection that the area of Forest Preserve adjacent to the state highway.

The Route 56 constitutional amendment passed the legislature last year, but had to be retracted due to errors in the first version. The Assembly’s approval late last night now represents first passage of a new amendment, so it must be passed again by a separately elected legislature before it can go on the ballot. The soonest that can happen is January 2009. Given the need to construct the line as soon as possible, environmental organizations have agreed not to try to prevent NYPA from building the power line without the benefit of official permission, explaining that the alternate route would cause needless ecological degradation to remote, pristine areas. A new power line right-of-way would only add to the threat of all-terrain vehicle trespass into those areas and adjacent Forest Preserve.The bill is sponsored by Senator Little and Assemblyman Sweeney.

Fire Fighting Costs: Also late night on June 20th, the Assembly granted final passage to a bill repealing the requirement that the 12 Adirondack Park counties and 3 Catskill Park counties repay the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation for the assistance of state forest rangers in fighting forest fires on state lands in the two wilderness parks. This arcane fee had so outraged local officials that DEC had been reluctant in recent years to even bill them. The fee was a thorn in the side of the late Sen. Ronald Stafford, who sponsored similar legislation to repeal it, but was stopped short by the Assembly’s objections. The bill is sponsored by Senator Little and Assem. Darrel Aubertine, D-Cape Vincent. The 12 Adirondack Forest Preserve counties are Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Herkimer, Lewis, Oneida, St. Lawrence, Saratoga, Warren and Washington. The three Catskill Forest Preserve counties are Greene, Sullivan and Ulster.

Environmental Protection Fund Expander: A bill sponsored by both Houses’ EnCon Chairmen, Sen. Carl Marcellino, R-Syosset, and Assemblyman Sweeney. It would increase the Environmental Protection Fund from its current level of $150 million per year to $300 million by FY2009-10. The EPF’s main capital projects funds are for landfill closure and recycling grants, parks and historic preservation and open space. This bill has passed the Assembly and is awaiting action in the Senate Rules Committee. Under this bill, the funds available for open space should increase from the current $50 million annually to about $100 million.

Lake Colby Horsepower Limit: This bill would limit the size of boat motors on Lake Colby, near Saranac Lake, to 10 HP. The lakeshore owners requested this for their own peace and to preserve a colony of nesting loons. It has passed the Senate and is awaiting action in the Assembly Rules Comte. It is sponsored by Sen. Little and Assem. Janet DuPrey, R-Plattsburgh.

NYS Invasive Species Council: A bill creating one has passed the Senate and awaits action in Assembly Rules. Sweeney/Marcellino.

Climate Change Task Force: A bill creating one is out of committee and awaiting action in each house; ready to pass when taken up. Marcellino/Sweeney.

Mileage and CO2: A bill would require carbon dioxide emissions information to be posted on the same sticker as mileage ratings for cars sold in New York State. Sweeney/Marcellino.

NCPR has a full report on what was left undone by our increasingly disfunctional legislature, including the Senates failure to confirm Spitzer’s choices to head the Adirondack Park Agency, the Olympic Regional Development Authority Board of Directors, and the Upstate Economic Development Corporation.


Monday, June 18, 2007

Center for Writing: Best Adirondack Books of 2006

Adirondack Center for Writing‘s 2nd Annual Adirondack Literary Awards were announced last week in Blue Mountain Lake. The honors were bestowed upon the best books published “in or about the Adirondacks” in 2006. There were 37 entries this year.

And the winners were:

Brian Mann’s Welcome to the Homeland: A Journey to the Rural Heart of America’s Conservative Revolution (Steerforth Press) won both the Best Nonfiction Book category and the People’s Choice Award, voted on by members of the Adirondack Center for Writing.

For the second year in a row, a trio of poets from the Saratoga region took the prize for Best Poetry Book was awarded for the second year in a row to Glacial Erratica: Three Poets on the Adirondacks, Part 2 (30-Acre Wood Publishing – apparently not available online) by Mary Sanders Shartle, Elaine Handley, and Marilyn McCabe.

Rick Henry’s book Lucy’s Eggs: Short Stories And a Novella (Syracuse University Press)won top prize in the fiction category.

Irene Uttendofsky won Best Children’s Book for Adirondack Mouse and the Perilous Journey (Spruce Gulch Press).

Lueza Thirkield Gelb from New York City received the Best Memoir Book award for her Schroon Lake (Pulpit Harbor Press).

Two books tied the Edited Collections category: Oswegatchie: A North Country River (North Country Books) and No Place I’d Rather Be: Wit and Wisdom from Adirondack Lean-to Journals (Adirondack Mountain Club).

Adirondack Waters: Spirit of the Mountains (North Country Books) by Mark Bowie won Best Photography Book.

Congratulations!


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Dangers of Americade

This past week marked the 25th Anniversary of Americade, one of Lake George’s premier tourist events. The motorcycle rally, billed as the world’s largest for touring bikes, brings bikers of all stripes to pack Lake George streets and bars. It also brings locals from nearby towns into the village on what, for some, is one of the only trips they’ll make there all year.

There’s an excellent article on Americade and its founder Bill Dutcher by Associated Press sports writer John Kekis. It gives a nice history of the rally’s founding, touches on the boon in trike riders (that’s good for Chestertown’s Adirondack Ural) and the event’s economic impact. It also, makes some pretty crazy claims about how safe the event is.

Here are some highlights:

Upward of 60,000 motorcycle enthusiasts – most on two wheels, but many now on three – will ride into town this week and transform this village of fewer than 1,000 full-time residents into a motorcycle heaven.

The rally, which once filled the economic void between Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, is now the mainstay of the whole year. Past estimates of Americade’s economic impact have been pegged at anywhere from $20 million to $40 million, though Dutcher hopes to get a more accurate figure this year from research to be conducted by the Technical Assistance Center at Plattsburgh State University.

“It is our largest single week economically,” longtime Lake George Mayor Robert M. Blais said. “It takes up every road and byway. People have come to accept it.”

Indeed we have. In fact they are still rolling by our house 20 minutes north of the village right now, days after the rally officially ended.

Blais was in office when Dutcher originally came to the village board with his idea. The moment remains etched in his mind.

“I thought it was a great idea,” Blais said. “I understood fully it was the touring folks that would be coming, but when I brought it to the attention of the village board, they were apprehensive. They didn’t want another Sturgis. They were concerned it was going to be loud, troublesome, boisterous.”

It wasn’t. Americade is about as peaceful as a motorcycle rally can be. And it certainly is no Sturgis, the massive South Dakota rally where 11 of the 300,000 people who showed up at the ride’s 50th anniversary in 1990 died. Dutcher said he is aware of only one death among the hundreds of thousands of bikers who have registered for Americade over the years.

That’s stretching the truth to say the least. Any local you ask will tell you about the riders killed every year at Americade time. They may not all have been officially registered for the rally – which costs anywhere from $57 to $95 per rider, depending on the package – but many visitors to Americade have been killed coming and going, and in tooling around locally in the days before and after the event.

But while the Americade website offers no safety advice or links, it does take pains to remind a certain class of riders that:

Americade… [is] a convention of riders and passengers who enjoy riding tourers, sport-tourers and cruising motorcycles.

Americade is a gathering of friendly, fun-loving folks, for whom motorcycling is a social hobby, but not some form of rebellion. It’s NOT the place for shows of speed, hostile attitudes, or illegally loud motorcycles. Americade supports the AMA position that “Loud Pipes Risk Rights.”

Nowhere does it remind riders that, unfortunately, riding a motorcycle is dangerous in our car-centered, self-absorbed world. It’s one of the most important issues facing bikers (as well as pedestrians, joggers, and bicyclists) today. It’s probably safe to say that every bike club in America has a memorial to one of their riders killed by a car or truck.

New York has the highest number of pedestrian and cyclist deaths and injuries in the U.S. What’s more, pedestrian and cyclist deaths make up a majority of traffic deaths in the state.

Just this past week a car-bike collision hit close to home when we learned the news that Alan Gregory, author of Alan Gregory’s Conservation News was hit by an 85-year old driver while bicycling near is home. He suffered a traumatic brain injury and is in long term hospital care.

Although Alan’s home is in Conyngham, Pennsylvania, until he was run-down in the street by a car, he was a regular writer on topics Adirondack and a staunch and intelligent defender of the Adirondack wilderness. His concern for the Adirondack environment is the kind of concern that has helped make Lake George such a great place to have a touring rally. The natural beauty of the Adirondacks is, in fact, one of Americade’s main features.

The promoters of Americade need to be reminded that it isn’t the rebellious who are the danger at Americade. The danger is that Americaders, and others, have to share our common roadways with highway hogs.

Americade’s promoters and participants have the perfect opportunity to engage us in serious ideas about sharing the roadway with people using other forms of transportation – bikes, cars, trains, buses, and feet.

Denying that there is a danger to Americaders, is not the first step.


Saturday, June 2, 2007

Adirondack Events: Watershed Ecology Lecture Series

The Lake George Land Conservancy and the Lake George Association a presenting a series of lectures on natural features of the Lake George watershed this spring and summer. The series of speakers will address the ecology and natural history plants and animals found around Lake George.

The events are free and open to the public. they will be held on Thursday evenings at 7 p.m. at either the Lake George Association or the Lake George Land Conservancy; light refreshments will be provided.

June 14, “Bats in your Backyard,” Al Hicks, NYSDEC Mammal Specialist, 7 p.m. at LGA office.

June 28, “Lake George Fish: Natural History and Ecology,” Emily Zollweg, NYSDEC Senior Aquatic Biologist, 7 p.m. at LGLC office.

July 12: “Zebra Mussels in Lake George,” John Wimbush, Darrin Fresh Water Institute researcher, 7 p.m. at LGA office.

July 26: “Rattlesnakes at Lake George: What You Need to Know but Were Afraid to Ask,” Bill Brown, associate professor emeritus of Biology at Skidmore College, 7 p.m. at LGLC office.

Aug. 9: “Mushrooms of the Adirondacks,” Nancy Scarzello, 7 pm at LGA office.

Aug. 23: “Exploring Pond Life: Turtles, Frogs and Pollywogs,” Emily DeBolt, LGA education and outreach coordinator, 7 p.m. at LGLC office.

For more information contact LGA’s Emily DeBolt 518-668-3558 or LGLC’s Sarah Hoffman at 518-644-9673.


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