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Democrat Photo by Fred Stabbert III

GERRY FOUNDATION EXECUTIVE Director Jonathan Drapkin, left, speaks about the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts to the Callicoon Business Association on Wednesday evening.

Bethel Woods Is At
Top of Locals' List

By Fred Stabbert III
CALLICOON — March 3, 2006 – When Gerry Foundation Executive Director Jonathan Drapkin showed up at the Barryville Chamber meeting recently a funny thing happened — he couldn’t find a parking spot.
In Barryville?
That’s right. Drapkin was greeted by 165 smiling faces who wanted to know all about the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, and what they could do to help.
“Bethel Woods wants to create linkages to the community,” Drapkin said. “We want this project to be part of a larger mosaic of revitalizing the county.”
According to Drapkin, there’s still plenty to do as the July 1 opening date approaches. The project, inspired by cable television pioneer Alan Gerry, will be the largest economic development project in county history.
“Bethel Woods worked very hard to get the right feel for the site,” Drapkin said. “Just being there will be a wonderful experience.”
And to that end, Drapkin has taken Bethel Woods’ message on the road, visiting chambers and business associations in Narrowsburg, Jeffersonville and Callicoon. More visits are planned — Monticello, Wurtsboro and beyond.
And routinely, he is faced with a barrage of questions about what communities can do to tie their growth with Bethel Woods.
On Wednesday night, he was greeted by a somewhat smaller but no less enthusiastic crowd at the Callicoon Business Association meeting at the Callicoon Depot.
Holding up a drawing of the Bethel Woods site, Drapkin explained how this $70 million project is an important part of the county’s economic development.
Drapkin pointed to Saratoga Springs as an example.
“The pavilion came first up there,” he said. “The main street didn’t get revitalized until after the performing arts center was built.
Drapkin is hopeful that parts of Sullivan County will develop the same way. Drapkin pointed out that Callicoon’s Main Street already is in good shape — and that they may want to focus on marketing strategies in order to continue to grow.
Drapkin went on to say, “There are projects which need to be done in other parts of the county. Our success will be enhanced by the proliferation of more lodging.
“We need to add to the number of B&Bs and see the development of several hotels. This will assist the growth of communities and businesses throughout the county,” he said.
“This project has the potential to serve as a catalyst but other [projects] need to take shape.”
Drapkin also discussed the region’s demographics as well as its unprecedented growth.
“This county is changing, radically changing,” said Drapkin.
“We are located next to the two fastest growing counties in Pennsylvania — Wayne and Pike. That’s a very important thing.
“And Orange County is the fastest growing county in New York and Sullivan is the second,” he added.
The Plans
“On July 1, some of the doubters will be convinced something magical is happening,” Drapkin said. “Bethel Woods has put something very extraordinary into this project.”
Drapkin explained that there will actually be five music venues when the project is fully completed, namely:
• Phase 1 of Bethel Woods’ plans calls for the July 1, 2006 opening of the 4,800-seat performing arts center.
“There will also be room for another 12,000 people on the hillside.”
And to inaugurate the site will be a special performance of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.
• Bethel Woods still has the necessary permit to host a concert on the 1969 Woodstock site that could accommodate 30,000.
• Still under construction — and scheduled for a 2007 opening — is the Museum/Interpretive Center.
It will house a museum to tell the story of the concert and also the decade of the 1960s.
‘We are currently working on the development of this,” Drapkin said. “It’s going to be a one-two punch: the performing arts center this summer and the museum next year.”
There will be a 132-seat, state-of-the art theater on one side of the museum and an events gallery on the other.
“This building is important, because the goal is to create a six-eight-month season to help bring visitors to the county,” he said.
• And just downhill from the museum will be an open-air, 650-seat outdoor amphitheater.
“The full impact of the project will not happen overnight,” Drapkin said “But it is already a terrific beginning as we have seen second home development and small businesses that have occurred due to Bethel Woods.”

What About Tickets?

By Fred Stabbert III
CALLICOON — March 3, 2006 – Tickets for the Bethel Woods summer concerts will be on sale “very, very soon,” according to Gerry Foundation Executive Director Jonathan Drapkin.
“There will be a little bit of jazz, a little bit of rock, a little bit of country, a little bit of everything,” he said.
“The first year we will test the market with different genres to learn how the market responds.”
With the first concert only 120 days away, construction is furiously coming to a close, and the New York Philharmonic is getting ready to perform Bethel Woods’ first-ever concert on July 1.
Keep checking this newspaper to find out when the tickets go on sale.

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