By Matt Youngfrau
FALLSBURG August 12, 2003 Take hundreds of people, more than 30 projects and nearly $100,000 in awards, and what do you get?
A county that has literally undergone Sullivan Renaissance.
And on Sunday, 150 people filled the Fallsburg High School auditorium to see whom the judges felt made their communities the most beautiful.
You are all here today because of your hard work, creativity, and vision, commented Renaissance founder Sandra Gerry. You have made our corner of the world beautiful. In three years, there have been 90 projects. We are beginning to see the light of a new dawn in Sullivan County.
Everybody here is a winner, remarked Steering Committee member Gerry Skoda. Sullivan County looks better. All of you here are a part of that. Sullivan County has experienced a renaissance. All your hearts should feel good.
This year, there were more projects up for awards. In fact, the first round grants of $1,000 apiece went to 31 different projects.
The program is divided into three categories A, B, and C.
Category A is for single-element projects like welcome signs, small gardens, or sign replacements. Prizes for category A are $3,000, $1,500, and $1,000.
Category B is for projects with more than one element, such as park enhancement, landscaping a building, roadside beautification, and facade renovation. Prizes for category B are $7,000, $5,000, and $3,000.
Category C is for multi-element projects such as corridor improvement, extensive main street beautification, park creation, and property reclamation. Prizes for Category C are $20,000, $10,000, and $7,500.
There are 11 Category A Projects, 14 Category B Projects, and 6 Category C Projects.
Two other special programs were introduced this year. The first was the Golden Feather Award, a $50,000 grant secured by the late New York State Assemblyman Jake Gunther. The grant was awarded to the community that demonstrates outstanding work in planning, development, maintenance, and community involvement. It is open to all projects, as long as they have participated in one of the previous two years. However, whoever wins this prize cannot win any other prize.
Another prize was in conjunction with the Sullivan County Community College Foundation. Two $1,500 scholarships were scheduled to be handed out to two Sullivan County residents who are working on a Renaissance project and are full-time college students for the 2003-2004 year.
Due to all this, extra judges were added this year. The number of judges, all from out of the county, rose from nine to 12. All were impressed by the projects.
The host for the awards was Shirley Felder Morton from Sullivan First Recycling. Felder Morton used a Powerpoint presentation to highlight each project. Then a group representative came out to expound on it. Afterwards, Annelise Gerry handed each group a certificate of achievement.
There is greatness in this room, Felder Morton said. I feel the power. There is no way I could do your projects justice. You are incredible people. When I grow up, I want to have your energy. But I am not ready to grow up yet.
You people care where you live, Felder Morton continued. At the end of the day, remember the friends, fun, and the experience. That is more important than winning. Alan and Sandra [Gerry, the program founders] have some legacy. It will go on forever.
During each presentation, all the organizers thanked the Gerrys for their support. The two looked on like proud parents.
Once the projects were reviewed, it was award time. The first award was the $1,500 SCCC Foundation Scholarship Award. It was presented by SCCC Foundation Board Member Joyce Salimeno. The recipient was Devon Brust from Bethel.
The next award was the Golden Feather. All thoughts turned to the late Assemblyman, and it was bittersweet.
You all deserve this, stated one of the program organizers, Jonathan Drapkin. Jake believed in beauty. When he gave us the $50,000, he was upset and wanted it to be more. We were shocked it was that much.
Presenting the award was Gunthers widow, Aileen, who was greeted with a long and loud standing ovation.
There is an awful lot of energy in this room, Gunther remarked. It is an honor to give this award on behalf of Jake. He loved Sullivan County.
Sandra and Alan Gerry had a dream, Gunther continued. They wanted to beautify and renovate the area. You have made that dream a reality. We will be forever grateful.
There were 12 applications for the Golden Feather. Three finalists were named: Livingston Manor Renaissance, Liberty A.L.I.V.E., and Neversink. The winner was Liberty A.L.I.V.E.
I was hoping for this, stated an enthusiastic Gary Siegel, who helped oversee Libertys projects. This is not about winning. We all win. This has become a better place to live for all of us.
The Gerrys then handed out this years Renaissance awards. Third place in category A and the winner of $1,000 was Lumberland. Second prize in category A and the winner of $1,500 was the Monticello Housing Authority. The Grand Prize winner in category A, receiving $3,000, was South Fallsburg in Bloom.
Third prize in category B and $3,000 went to Long Eddy. Category Bs second prize of $5,000 went to Youngsville. The grand prize of $7,000 in category B went to Highland.
Third prize in category C of $7,500 went to Monticello Sullivan First for deHoyas Park (last years winner). Second prize and $10,000 went to Livingston Manor Renaissance. The grand prize of $20,000 went to 2001 grand prize winner Neversink.
While not everyone walked away with money, all walked away with community pride and many began to plan for next year.