Esopus’ bicentennial birthday bash hearkens back to an eighteenth-century colony, which the website describes is the third Dutch settlement in America. The word “Esopus” derives from the local Native American language meaning,” land of flowing water and high banks.”
“We have been meeting for a year and a half in anticipation of this, agreeing that we have quite a little hidden gem here,” explained Louis Ingellis, one of the volunteers who helped collaborate on a several-page brochure listing all the town’s events for the year. “Our theme is Discover, explore, celebrate,” she says. “And we just want people to know what’s going on. This is a typical year, but we are highlighting events well in advance this time. Like maybe people didn’t know that we have an egg hunt every year, or kayaking with the Kingston Paddle Pals, the Strawberry Festival, or how the Headless Horseman is opening its gardens to the public.”
Ingellis, who has herself lived in Esopus for a dozen years, also helped Port Ewan secure a Main Street grant in 2008 through which it received streetscape enhancements and other renovation dollars.
“We began a year-long celebration starting in January,” said Ingellis. “We have a brochure that people can download from the town website. And the most current information will also be updated on the town’s website as well, or the library’s website. In each of the organizations that are having the event, there is also a contact person for that organization that could give more information.”
Many of the venues and events have incorporated a “bicentennial-feel” or theme, such as special tours to naturalist and Esopus resident John Burroughs’ bucolic Slabsides cabin in the woods on May 21 and again on October 1. “[Burroughs] lived in a house right off 9W with his wife, but made a little place in the woods called Slabsides where he would invite Vassar students,” explained Ingellis. “There are pictures of them in their long white dresses -- and he has got this long white beard. He was quite an eccentric character. He was also friends with Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir, who started the Sierra Club. There is a lot of naturalist history right here in Esopus that we want to highlight.”
Tugboats are another recurring theme of the celebrations. Recently the Hudson River Maritime Museum presented a slideshow and talk on the history of tugboats on the Hudson River at the Klyne Esopus museum. The Maple Ridge Christian Bruderhof community helped fashion three-foot tugboat replicas, which were then fabricated, produced and donated by Usheco Inc. of Stone Ridge and Universal Metal Fabricators. The tugboats have been dispatched to various local artists to be painted, and will soon be installed along Route 9W for the town’s Memorial Day parade, explained Esopus library events coordinator Maryann Zimmer. “Like Catskills have cats, we have tugboats,” explained Zimmer. The parade will also include bicentennial themes with special floats and exhibits
On October 1 each hamlet will present its history to curious visitors or residents on informational bus tours, and the model tugboats will be auctioned off to help defray some of the costs of the celebration. Town tax collector Bernice McNeirny, also on the bicentennial committee, helped to compile the historic data and information of every hamlet.
Upcoming May events include a slide presentation and discussion: “Rondout Creek, A Recreational & Historic Deep Water Port on the Hudson,” by Diane Dintruff at the Esopus Library on May 13. Dintruff is a local kayaker who formed the Kingston Paddle Pals. According to Zimmer, Dintruff, who does watershed education and conservation, will conduct a slide presentation about the Rondout Creek focused on both paddling and the environment. The presentation is part of a state heritage weekend, an occasion upon which various municipalities, museums or historical sites are hosting special programming.
A book sale on May 21 and 22 will feature specially made bicentennial bookmarks with Esopus information on them. The town library is planning to hand out the bookmarks on Memorial Day parade.
The Klyne Esopus museum will present its “200 Years of Life in Esopus” exhibit on June 5, including a now-vintage 1959 film celebrating “150 years of Esopus,” with a cameo by first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, benefactress to the Wiltwyck School.
Raffle tickets for two bottles of wine are available at nearly event thanks to the twelve cases donated by Lou Fiore of West Park Winery. Six residents win two bottles each month.
A downloadable, complete schedule of events is available at esopus.com, which also contains updated calendar information as well.