Anya Tikka | Democrat
Measuring “The World’s Longest Bagel Line.” It was 138 feet long and had 87 people holding it, each one with a bagel with a ribbon through it.
It’s a big hit
Story by Anya Tikka
MONTICELLO August 23, 2013 The First Bagel Festival in Monticello on Sunday attracted crowds numbering about 3,000, as well as vendors from as far as Los Angeles, New Orleans and even Sydney, Australia.
Main organizer Jeff Siegel explained, “Its inception was about tourism, economic development, and job creation. That was the basis behind having an event. We were sitting in a bagel place, and I said, ‘Let’s have a bagel festival.’ Everybody loves bagels. Bagels are probably one of the top five foods in the world.”
From that initial meeting came much hard work and organizing to bring the festival to fruition through the lead efforts of the Monticello Business Association (MBA).
Siegel, a local businessman who was born and raised in Monticello, also heads up the MBA.
“The state was behind us, there was no problem closing the street [thanks to] the Department of Transportation,” Siegel noted. “Also, New York State Gas and Electric [gave permission to] hang the sound system off the poles. They rolled out the red carpet for us.”
Broadway, the county seat’s main drag, is also part of State Route 42.
Carrie West came from all the way from LA, and was signing copies of her book “Psychology of Bagels” in front of the tie-dye bagel sign people were signing for $5.
“I heard about the festival, and I had to be here,” West said. “I love bagels. A friend of mine from LA had heard about it, and she sent me an email and said, ‘You’ve got to call these guys.’ At first they thought it was a joke. But here I am.”
Stacy, Rich and Connor (3) Morgan from White Lake were walking the length of jam-packed Broadway while the music blasted over the speakers.
“It’s weird to walk in the middle of the street,” Rich said to his son, who smiled. They said they had come to the festival to support the local economy.
Among the festival goers was Sullivan County Legislative Chairman Scott Samuelson, who said, “I just think it’s a beautiful day. It’s incredible to see all these people enjoy Sullivan County.”
The person who came farthest by far was Michael Shaffer. Siegel called him on stage, noting, “He traveled 24 hours from Sydney, Australia to get here to the Bagel Festival,” to a round of applause.
Schaffer explained, “I’m originally from Brooklyn. We wanted to bring a little bit of Brooklyn to the other side of the world. We do them old school style, hand roll them, and boil them. Every time I tell someone I sell a bagel for $4 in Australia they look at me incredulously but you’ve got to remember, minimum wage is $16 in Australia.”
Schaffer’s store in Sydney is called Brooklyn Bagel Boys, and he said he just started in February, and operates pop-ups in small bars and warehouses and recently in farmers markets.
Sugarman Bakers came from New Orleans, offering their own bagels to festival goers in the food court area.
Among the visitors and locals were also tourism guru Dr. Peter Tarlow of Texas, who gave advice to the MBA. Tarlow said it was a jointly conceived idea.
“Look how many people are here! Usually the town is empty on Saturday afternoon,” said Tarlow, who was introduced to the county by Sullivan Renaissance, for whom he consults.
Although most of the vendors were selling regular street fair wares, and not so many bagels, Siegel said, “It’s an evolving concept.”
He also declared he was happy at the turnout, and planning more festivals in the future.