Category Archives: Festivals and Events

Chinatown, NYC Celebrates Year of Rooster at 18th Annual Lunar New Year Parade

18th Annual Lunar New Year Parade, Chinatown, New York City © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

New York City’s Chinatown celebrated the Year of the Rooster with its 18th annual Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade & Festival.

US Senator Charles Schumer of New York was the Grand Marshal.

All along the route, Senator Charles Schumer gave a shout out to the largest ethnic Chinese community in the US, to Chinese immigrants, to all immigrants, and finished with a declaration “Immigrants make America great. We need more,” eliciting cheers from the crowd each time, as the parade wound its way along Mott Street.

US Senator Charles Schumer, Grand Marshal of the 18th Annual Lunar New Year Parade, Chinatown, New York City © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Periodically, he would make his way to personally greet parade-goers, which included many people from outside the community. The most frequent comment that he heard had to do with somehow torpedoing the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary. “She’ll be terrible,” he said. “We need one more vote. I’m working on it.”

Occasionally a few in the crowd would shout an anti-Trump remark, but in general, the crowd was in the spirit of the Lunar New Year.

US Senator Charles Schumer greets paradegoers at the 18th Annual Lunar New Year Parade, Chinatown, New York City © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

This is the Year of the Rooster, the tenth in the 12-year cycle of Chinese zodiac sign. The Years of the Rooster include 1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, 2029.

18th Annual Lunar New Year Parade, Chinatown, New York City celebrates the Year of the Rooster © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“The Rooster is almost the epitome of fidelity and punctuality. For ancestors who had no alarm clocks, the crowing was significant, as it could awaken people to get up and start to work. In Chinese culture, another symbolic meaning of chicken carries is exorcising evil spirits,” according to the travelchinaguide.com site.

New York City’s Chinatown, two square miles in lower east side of Manhattan, is the largest Chinatown in the United States and the site of the largest concentration of Chinese in the western hemisphere. Manhattan’s Chinatown is also one of the oldest ethnic Chinese communities outside of Asia.

Chinatown, New York City, largest Chinese-American community in the US, celebrates the Year of the Rooster © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Schumer’s encouragement for immigrants was understandable in Chinatown. With a population estimated between 70,000 and 150,000, Chinatown is the favored destination point for Chinese immigrants, though in recent years the neighborhood has also become home to Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Burmese, Vietnamese, and Filipinos among others, according to Sarah Waxma, who writes about the history of Chinatown on the Chinatown-online.com site, which is also a source for planning a visit and touring.

Lunar New Year Parade, Chinatown, New York City © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

“From the start, Chinese immigrants tended to clump together as a result of both racial discrimination, which dictated safety in numbers, and self-segregation. Unlike many ethnic ghettos of immigrants, Chinatown was largely self-supporting, with an internal structure of governing associations and businesses which supplied jobs, economic aid, social service, and protection. Rather than disintegrating as immigrants assimilated and moved out and up, Chinatown continued to grow through the end of the nineteenth century, providing contacts and living arrangements — usually 5-15 people in a two room apartment subdivided into segments — for the recent immigrants who continued to trickle in despite the enactment of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882,” she writes.

Lunar New Year Parade, Chinatown, New York City © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

In remarks that sadly resonate in today’s headlines because of Trump’s Travel Ban on seven predominantly Muslim nations, she notes that “The Chinese Exclusion Act (1882-1943), to date the only non-wartime federal law which excluded a people based on nationality, was a reaction to rising anti-Chinese sentiment. This resentment was largely a result of the willingness of the Chinese to work for far less money under far worse conditions than the white laborers and the unwillingness to ‘assimilate properly’.”

There is none of this dark history on view today, only celebration.

Lunar New Year Parade, Chinatown celebrates culture © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

At the Lunar New Year, Chinatown becomes a fantastic street party with vendors, food and festivities, and heritage and ancient traditions on view.

“Lunar New Year is the liveliest and most important celebration in Chinese culture and Chinatown is the place to experience it!

The Museum of China in the Americas (MOCA) offers a walking tour that takes visitors through Chinatown to learn about holiday traditions and customs observed by Chinese households. Witness how the neighborhood transforms itself in preparation for the New Year and discover the characteristics that make this holiday unique.”

Lunar New Year Parade, Chinatown, New York City © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Tours are conducted in English and are led by MoCA docents with personal or family roots in the neighborhood. In case of inclement weather, tours will be held in the galleries. Advance reservations are required. For information and reservations call 212-619-4785 or purchase tickets online, www.mocanyc.org. (Museum of Chinese in America, 215 Centre Street New York, NY 10013, 855-955-MOCA).

For more information, visit www.chinatown-online.com.

 

 

Lunar New Year Parade, Chinatown, New York City © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com
Lunar New Year Parade, Chinatown, New York City © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com
Lunar New Year Parade, Chinatown, New York City © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

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© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

 

Day into Night at the Pushkar Camel Fair & Festival of Brahma, India

Negotiating at the Pushkar Camel Fair © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

The “Jungle Book” Wildlife Safari and Cycling Adventure chapter of our Royal Expeditions trip to India ends, but a new story begins when we leave our hotel in New Delhi, again in the darkness before dawn, to take a six-hour train journey to Pushkar in Rajasthan for the annual Pushkar Camel Fair. In many ways, this immersion into a centuries-old tradition transports us into the pages of Rudyard Kipling’s 1895 book even more tangibly than the game drives into the jungles of Mowgli and Shere Khan. See:‘Jungle Book’ Cycling Adventure Into Tiger Territory of India and ‘Jungle Book’ Cycling Adventure Through Local Villages of India’s Kanha National Park and continued with Pench National Park, India, is the Real Locale for Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Jungle Book’. Was Mowgli Real Too? and Tiger, Tiger! On Safari in India’s Kanha National Park

 

The Pushkar Horse and Camel Fair and Festival of Brahma takes place over a 10-day period in October/November every year, timed to take place during one of Rajasthan’s holiest festivals; the exact date varies on the western calendar but always falls during the full moon of the Indian lunar calendar month of Kartik. Pushkar is the only place in the world where Lord Brahma, the Hindu God of Creation, one of the Holy Trinity, is worshipped. A place of pilgrimage, the camel and horse fair developed out of this massive annual gathering.

The fair is a kaleidoscope of color, a swirl of motion, a cacophony of sound, unexpected up-close encounters (as with a camel), the crush of crowds.

Camel cart, Pushkar Camel Fair, India © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

One of the greatest spectacles anywhere, in my mind the Pushkar Camel Fair is a combination of state fair, carnival and pilgrimage with a smidgeon of circus thrown in. There are snake charmers, musicians, dancing horses, magic show, ferris wheels. You can buy anything and everything – household items, decorative reins for camels and horses; street vendors selling drinks made from sugar cane, merchants selling every manner of goods from stalls and from blankets sprawled out on the road.

Traveling by Train

Our trip to the Pushkar Camel Fair starts with a fantastic six-hour train journey from New Delhi, enhancing the movie-quality of the experience.

We speed through the streets from the Sheraton Hotel, dark and amazingly vacant at 5 am compared to the chaotic snarl of traffic we navigated through when we arrived the evening before from Kanha National Park, flying from Jabalpur to New Delhi.

We pull in across from the train station and out of nowhere, fellows appear who will porter our luggage (on their heads) to the train. We follow briskly after – going through the airport-style security that we have come to expect at every hotel – and are immediately grateful for their help when we realize how we have to climb up stairs to a bridge that takes us to our track. We have time to wait – there are hundreds of people who have basically camped out on the platforms.

Our train departs just after 6 am. A porter comes through our first class car with newspapers, then tea and coffee, and then breakfast (the omelet was very good). Our Royal Expeditions guide creates a WiFi hotspot for us.

Our guide who will take us around the fair, Thurka Durga Singh, comes aboard and begins orienting us to what we will see at the fair. He is a regal looking gentleman, descended from the Warrior Class, who carries himself with grace and dignity. His voice is sonorous, and I soon discover, he is very much a poet and a storyteller, steeped in India’s traditions and culture.

Durga Singh © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Indeed, as he would describe himself, Durga “is a keen observer of history, culture, religion, current affairs, and is a bank of knowledge so vast that he has a point of view on anything under the sun. He is what one could call a modern traditionalist, actively seeking the use of modern technology and methods to support the principles of traditional living. The inquisitive can have endless conversations with him on a number of his projects like rain – water harvesting, biogas plant, solar heating and, even, healthy cooking.” It only takes a simple question for him to launch into an entrancing narration.

“Before trains, buses, cars, all citizens traveled by animals – camel, horse. From the 11th to the15th day of the waning moon, pilgrims would come by the thousands on horses and camels from near Delhi to have a holy day. A fair developed. If you come during the first eight to 10 days of the Pushkar Camel Fair, you see more animals; in the last three days, there are more pilgrims. (Indeed, Dugar had just come from guiding a horse-riding safari to the fair.)

A horse trade underway at the Pushkar Camel & Horse Fair, India © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Rural farmers still use camels and horses as work animals and the Pushkar fair is one of the biggest camel, horse and live-stock fairs possibly anywhere, attracting buyers and sellers from all over the country, as well as visitors from around the world. At the peak of the fair, there might be 11,000 camels and 400,000 people coming from far and wide, dressed in their traditional and regional clothes. For days before the fair and after, you can see herders driving their camels and horses along the highway.

Seller grabs his buyer by the hand to pull him into the tent where negotiations can happen away from prying eyes © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

”At the fair, everything is everybody’s business. Our sense of privacy is different. Eavesdropping is a custom of the fair. People standing around give their unsolicited opinion – ‘Good horse’.” (We actually find ourselves doing this exact thing). “Now the deal is getting serious. Now the seller and the buyer don’t want others giving opinion. They clasp hands to clinch deal. Now bystanders have even more curiosity. ‘What is it your business?’ ‘I just wanted to know.’”

An ancient tradition is that when the horse is sold, it is never given with reins “because that would declare he would never have that horse again. So the buyer puts his own reins on [you can see stands that sell decorative reins.] Then the seller has money and gives a little money back, to get the horse extra food, a parting gift to the horse.

“In the western mind, business is business, there is no sentiment [recall the expression: It’s business. Not personal.]. In the Eastern mind, it is etiquette to offer tea. A Westerner would feel obligated to buy, but not an Easterner.

Getting closeup view of camels at the Pushkar Camel Fair  © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

He gives us a tutorial on the different types of camels and how they are still used as work animals and why the reputation of camels as being mean and spitting isn’t really fair. One kind “can go sunrise to sunset, 60 km and has more stamina than horse. It can go without water for weeks.  Camels live 26 years; 4-16 year olds work, 16-24 year olds still work but not as hard. Five minutes before it drops dead, it still doesn’t refuse work, then it drops dead.”

I ask how much a camel costs: a young camel, 2 ½ years old (they start training and work at three years old) might cost 14,000-15,000 Rupees ($205-$220); a grown, trained camel might cost 55,000-100,000 rupees ($735-$1500).

“The camel is God’s blessing to us. It browses, eats species that others don’t, like the thorny bush. He doesn’t compete for food, but he is plow, car, tractor.”

But things are changing, he says. Alas, “Young people don’t want to be stuck with an animal. They prefer a tractor…. It’s likely the Pushkar Camel Fair will disappear in 10 years.”

In India’s cash economy (they don’t use credit cards or checks), there may be 15 million rupees in cash at the fair, in bags, clothes. “There are no locks, no safes.” So men wear a vest that has a hidden pocket and put a shirt over that. “A man may have 1 million rupees and no one knows. He can’t be pick-pocketed.”

The state must collects its tax, but since there are no written records of transactions, the tax department charges a flat rate when people enter the fair.

A whirl of motion at the Pushkar Camel Fair © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

This year, is unusual, he says. We are there just as the Modi government without warning canceled the 500 and 1000 rupee bills in circulation that are the basis for an economy that still runs on cash.

“The Fair has gone into a difficult time. There are many unsold animals, owners sitting desolate. They spent money to buy the animals but have no money to bring them back. Many will leave the animals behind.”

We should also look out for the camel’s haircut. “They decorate their camel like fellows decorate their motorcycles. You wine and dine the barber – it can cost 2000-3000 rupees. The Barber used to make lovely design – a lotus flower – but the Barber has gotten quite old, he is about to go to heaven. He made peacock design; an Islamic barber makes a geometric pattern. Now you see a Sikh shearer from Punjab who works fast.”

Farmers used to collect the camel wool to make rugs, sacks; “Now nobody collects.” Well at least one group does, who we come upon in the market, Camel Charisma.

Acquiring a horse at the Pushkar fair © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

He bemoans the disappearance, one by one, of traditions (“20 years ago, women would sing folk songs. No more: girls go to school now and don’t learn folk music”).

If you come during the first eight to 10 days of the Pushkar camel fair, you see more animals; in the last three days, there are more pilgrims. “Now pilgrims come in jeeps, buses – groups of pilgrims, in different dress.”

He paints pictures of what else we will see, and lo and behold, when we arrive at the fair later that afternoon, we see for ourselves exactly what he has foretold:

“When you go to cinema, you eat popcorn – well, for desert people, sugar cane is big – trucks and trucks of sugar cane come in from the neighboring state of Pradesh.” We see stalls (a little like cotton-candy machines) crushing sugar cane into a juice add lemon and ginger.

Traditional food at the Pushkar Camel Fair © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

We will see the “normal” food of the Indian countryside. “Who goes to the countryside? Hunters, nomads, pilgrims and animal trader and armies. They have to cook and eat in countryside. So they will collect dried cow droppings for cooking fuel (it’s free) [but you can actually buy cow dung patties on Amazon, I’m told] to prepare balls of wheat flour, served on a plate made of leaves.

“You light up a cow dung fire. When the fire dies down, you roast bread on the embers. It’s clean because after a half-hour of cooking, the cow dung is sterilized. Stores sell this round chat-patti fried wheat bread. It’s street food. The village pilgrims relish this food.”

The camel fair also involves a sprawling market (like a flea market), with all manner of goods for sale.

Interesting people at the Pushkar Camel Fair © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

He also alerts us that we can photograph regular people –they don’t take money – but there are also “professional” photo subjects – they dress like in various costumes and you are expected to pay 100-200 rupees to take a picture (kind of like the naked cowboy in Times Square).

He warns us that “skunks” spoil the visit for Indians and foreigners. They solicit money – “Mafia like” =saying they want to take you to the lake. Tell them ‘We have been to the lake.”

He says he will take us to the roof of a restaurant to see the lake and watch the rituals.

The beauty of the fair is its randomness, a kaleidoscope of colors, a swirl of activity, he says. “No guidebook will tell you this aspect.”

His narration has made the hours spent on the train fly by. Before we know it, we pull into Ajmir.

Ajmir, A Holy City

We arrive in Ajmir and once we are underway in our van for the half-hour ride to Pushkar, Durga has us join in reciting a Hindu blessing, since Ajmir is one of the holiest places for Hindus, Buddhists and Jains.

The story goes that when Sati died, Shiva cried so much and for so long, that his tears created two holy ponds – one at Pushkara in Ajmer in India and the other at Ketaksha, which means “raining eyes” in Sanskrit.

One of India’s first cities, Ajmir was the Chahamana capital ruling all India until the defeat of Prithviraja lll in 1192 when the city came under Muslim rule. And when India was under British rule and divided into 526 Maharajah states, the Viceroy, the direct link to the British Crown, was based in Ajmir.

Religious ritual underway in Ajmir, holy to several major religions © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Ajmir also has one of the most important Sufi shrines, “next to Mecca and Medina, one of the holiest for Muslims.”

Moinuddin Chishti, an important Iman practicing the Sufi form of Islam, came to Ajmir from Iran, developing a large following, and gaining the respect of the residents of the city. Chishti promoted understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims.

Sufism is a Muslim movement which arose in the 8th-9th centuries, whose followers seek to find divine truth and love through direct encounters with God. Sufis, Durga explains do not believe that nonbelievers are infidels (like the more extreme Wahabis). Every individual is God’s children. Music is an important part of worship, connecting worshippers to the divine. He has as much a following among Hindus as Muslims. Many Muslims live here.”

In some ways, it seems Ajmir is like Jerusalem in that it is the confluence of these different religions.

During our brief ride, Durga explains reincarnation, predestination and freewill (no mean feat), connecting reincarnation to Darwin. “Darwin talks of physical evolution, Einstein of the soul transfiguring. There is a zero balance account when you are born – that’s free will. Now you start creating your karma; that brings you back again and again. The aim of life is to go back to the Godhead, to break the cycle of birth and rebirth.” Reincarnation, rebirth and nirvana, he says, is not that much different than Christianity’s belief in resurrection and heaven. “There are many commonalities.”

Free will and destiny are not contradictory. “Destiny is that you find a note, then free will is what you do with it. You receive your past and create your future – that is the secret of happiness. In the East, there is no place for guilt” because actions have repercussions in future life.

As for why cows are sacred, it basically comes down to a very practical reason: people depend on the cow. “The cow was revered before it became holy.” We see cows with their horns that had been painted for the Diwali Festival.

Pushkar Camel Fair © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We make our way slowly through a snarl of humanity, traffic cops doing their best to organize. Because of the traffic during the fair, we are led the long way around, traveling around the lake and over Nag Pahar, the Snake Mountain, separating Pushkar from Ajmer. We don’t mind at all because we get to see more of the city and landscape.

Coming into Pushkar, we bypass the entrance to the fair – it is wall-to-wall people, since it is toward the end of the fair now mostly pilgrims as opposed to camel and horse buyers – enroute to the Royal Tents, a luxurious tented camp set up by The Royal Jodhpur Camps specifically for the fair, where we stay.

Royal Jodhpur Camp provides luxurious accommodations at the Pushkar Camel Fair © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Royal Jodhpur Camp is set up as a traditional “shikar” style camp: at a time when only royalty was allowed to hunt, these camps were set up to accommodate them. Ours consists of rows of elegant and luxurious twin bedded tents with verandahs with deck-chairs in front and attached bathrooms with running hot and cold water (even a shower), set out over an expansive sandy plain. There are electric lights, an electric heater, rugs on the ground. There is also a spacious Mughal-style dining tent and a recreation tent which serves as a lounge.  It is set on expansive private grounds surrounded by rolling mustard fields in flower and rocky hills, a walk or camel ride away from the fair.

It is the ultimate in glamping. We can tie a triangular flag to a rope outside the tent to signal if we want service (room service, hot water). We can order coffee delivered in the early morning.

We feel much as the royal entourage who would come on hunting expeditions and stay in these elaborate camps. The operative word is “royal.”

Royal Jodhpur Camp © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Indeed, The Royal Jodhpur Camps actually has a family connection to Royal Expeditions, the tour company that has organized our Jungle Book Wildlife Safari and Cycling Adventure and this extension to the Pushkar Camel Fair, Jaipur and Agra. Royal Expeditions was founded by a royal family of Jodhpur related to a Princess who also served in Parliament and as India’s Minister of Culture, and the Royal Jodhpur Camps is her brother’s enterprise. It makes it all the more fantastic. And like our other accommodations – the Pench Tree Lodge and the Kanha Earth Lodge during our time doing wildlife safaris in the national parks – it enhances our Camel Fair experience.

We have a superb lunch in an enormous dining tent (complete with ceiling fan), before setting out for our visit to the fair.

Day into Night at Pushkar Camel Fair 

Durga has timed it so we arrive at the fair in the afternoon and will be here after dark, to get the full color and atmosphere.

Ferris Wheels light the night at the Pushkar Camel Fair © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Soon we are caught up as we watch a transaction for a horse, just as Durga foretold we would during our train ride: “At the fair, everything is everybody’s business.” And just as he described, we watch a fellow eyeing a horse. And just as he described, soon we find ourselves chiming in as if it is our business, “Oh, that’s a fine-looking horse.” And just as Durga had described, moments later, the seller grabs the customer’s hand and pulls him inside the tent, where he most likely will be plied with tea so the negotiations can commence out of the gaze of prying eyes and gossipy critics.

The vast, bustling market at the Pushkar Camel Fair © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Durga leads us through a vast market with just about every item you can imagine for sale: shoes, scarves, household items; saddles and decorative reins and leashes for the camels and horses.

We see albino horses for sale, which Durga says are used for weddings. He introduces me to Bakshu, a prominent horse breeder he knows from Gudrash, and Raika, a professional camel breeder.

We pass by a tent where there is magic show on our way to the market.

Worshippers jam into a temple on a hilltop above the market at the Pushkar Camel Fair © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

He takes us to what is probably the most distinctive shops at the fair, Camel Charisma, where you can buy paper out of camel dung; scarfs form discarded camel hair (and silk), 2500 R ($36), fresh camel milk, camel milk soap and just about anything you can imagine from camel. We taste chai made of camel milk. He takes us to his favorite textile stall (I’m still kicking myself for not buying an embroidered wool wrap for $25).

He takes us passed temples, jam-packed with worshippers, to where we can go to a rooftop to look down on the holy lake and the religious rituals underway. We watch as the sun sets, the lights come on and a super moon rises over the Pushkar Lake.

Temple of Brahma, Pushkar Lake, © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Pushkar is the only place in the world where Lord Brahma, the Hindu God of Creation, one of the Holy Trinity, is worshipped. The Brahma Temple, which officially is dated from the 14th century but is believed to be 2000 years old, is set on the lake, and during the night, lights of changing colors come on. In the distance, on a hilltop, we can make out the Savitri Temple, dedicated to Brahma’s consort, Savitri, but to visit involves an hour long trek uphill.

Rituals at Pushkar Lake © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Around the lake are numerous bathing ghats, where thousands of pilgrims take their holy dip in the sacred waters of Lake Pushkar, as religious chanting and pealing bells resound. We get to peer down on these activities from our perch on the roof, watching people gather around open fires.

We make our way back through the market and the carnival, now lighted up and festive, with five giant ferris wheels looming over the fair. We pass a crowd watching a dancing horse.

When we return to the tented camp, where we have a marvelous dinner (with Sula champagne!).

Dancers, musicians at the Royal Jodhpur Camp © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

We comment on how good the papadom is – a seasoned dough made with mung bean flour fried or cooked with dry heat. “In my grandmother’s day, they used to invite women for lunch, sing, everyone came with a rolling pin, they would sing and make the papadom and put it out in the sun to dry,” Durga says.

There is a fireeater, musicians and dancers to entertain us around a bonfire.

I return to the fair the next morning by myself. Durga has arranged for the driver to pick me up at 7 am. As we pull up, I watch as a hot air balloon rises over the fair. (Hot air ballooning is a relatively new adventure activity in India and the desert state of Rajasthan is the most popular place.)

The bustling market at the Pushkar Camel Fair © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

I get to the fair and just wander around – I am one of a scant few Westerners at this point. It is amazing to me how busy it is even this early in the morning. There are only a few camels left for sale and I watch what looks like the end of a transaction.

Leaving the fair, I see pilgrims arriving in open-back trucks, and in trucks that have been outfitted with bunkbeds.

Durga has told us that it can take 10 days to travel from Agra with the camels, and that we will see people in their camel carts traveling along the highway, as we drive to our next destination, Jaipur. And we do!

Camels being led home along the highway from the Pushkar Camel Fair   © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In Jaipur, we learn more about this regal gentleman and his family, when we visit his boutique guesthouse, Dera Mandawa – his family’s century-old estate which, back in the day, accommodated dignitaries when they visited the Maharajah. The family lost their property and position when India nationalized such estates in the 1949, and families like his were forced to turn their estates and palaces into commercial enterprises or see them torn down. Instead of the path of a warrior as his ancestors would have taken, Durga has been involved in tourism for 35 years. (www.deramandawa.com) 

For more information, contact Royal Expeditions Pvt. Ltd. www.royalexpeditions.comtours@royalexpeditions.com, or Royal Expeditions’ North American representative: kiki@wanderlustportfolio.com, 720-328-8595.

See also:

‘Jungle Book’ Cycling Adventure Into Tiger Territory of India

‘Jungle Book’ Cycling Adventure Through Local Villages of India’s Kanha National Park

Pench National Park, India, is the Real Locale for Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Jungle Book’. Was Mowgli Real Too?

Tiger, Tiger! On Safari in India’s Kanha National Park

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© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Judy Collins, Premiere Honoring Orlando Victims Among Highlights of New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace at St John the Divine

The New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, titled “Light Shall Lift Us” culminated with the light of thousands of candles held aloft © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

My favorite way to transition to the new year has been to attend the New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace in the grand, awe-inspiring space of the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine. The music that fills its cavernous space with such pure, sweet sound, inspires contemplation, hope, and even calm against the uncertainty ahead.

The event is the most inspirational and life-affirming – such a contrast to the crassness of most New Year’s Eve festivities.

“Tonight is so important, as we pray for peace, because we renew our commitment to goodwill and hopefulness,” stated Reverend James A. Kowalski, Dean of the Cathedral. “We dare to believe again that mean spiritedness and division must not have the final word. We invite the Spirit of Light to empower and embolden us, as we cast off despair and cynicism, and reaffirm that we will choose fairness, justice and kindness over the shallowness and destruction of ‘winner take all’ or ‘to the victor goes the spoils.’ As global citizens, we pray that the world will also be drawn to that light. We acknowledge that we must do our part to brighten and represent that light – across faiths, cultures and geographies to build more just societies.”

Broadcast journalist Harry Smith at the New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine: “Causes without participating is little more than idle fantasy.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“We come because we care about justice, fairness, poverty, morality… we care about peace,” said the broadcast journalist Harry Smith. “But what we know now is that caring about these things is not enough. Peace needs to be won, justice needs to be fought for, causes need to be championed, poverty needs to be abolished.” Desire and good intentions aren’t enough, he said. These causes need “our involvement; movements need a head; legislators need new members. ..Causes without participating is little more than idle fantasy,” he said, adding a jibe at those who did not vote.

Composer Paul Moravec and librettist Mark Campbell, with Kent Tritle, Director of Music for the Cathedral, after their triumphant New York premiere of New York premiere of “Light Shall Lift Us,” dedicated to the victims and survivors of the massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

This year’s concert was especially poignant, featuring a New York Premier of “Light Shall Lift Us,” by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Paul Moravec and librettist Mark Campbell, a musical response to the tragedy that occurred at Pulse nightclub in Orlando on June 12, 2016: the largest mass shooting in U.S. history. The inspirational work, which they dedicated to the victims and survivors of the massacre, was premiered June 16, 2016  in “One Voice Orlando,” a benefit concert Campbell helped organize with Opera Orlando. (A portion can be heard at youtube, https://youtu.be/YA9NozeWEcc).

I recalled sadly that last year’s Concert for Peace featured the world premiere of “Prelude and Spiritual for Mother Emanuel,” by  librettist Virginia Sirota and composer Robert Sirota, honoring the victims of the Charleston massacre.

Judy Collins, Artist in Residence, at the New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Judy Collins, the Cathedral’s Artist in Residence, spoke and sang of her 50 year friendship and collaboration with Leonard Cohen, that began with his composition which has become so identified with her, “Suzanne” which she recorded in 1966. (She said he also encouraged her to write her own music.) It was kind of a tribute to all those lost this past year. (See youtube, https://youtu.be/3lQg5QKDWt4)

Then, in a nod to current affairs and challenges ahead, she “read” and sang a letter to Vladimir Putin that recalled her tour of Russia at the age of 26 and what she saw there, interspersing it with refrains of “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” her sweet, melodic voice ringing through the cavernous cathedral. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5fFU-f35oE).

Collins finished by leading “Amazing Grace.” (see youtube, https://youtu.be/NJU2k3fsQ9s)

Jason Robert Brown, Tony-Award-winning composer and lyricist, performs a new composition, ‘Hope,” at the New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Jason Robert Brown, Tony-Award-winning composer and lyricist, performed his “To Build A Home,” portraying an immigrant’s arrival to the heartland of the USA, from his musical The Bridges of Madison County, joined by soloist Elizabeth Stanley, who starred in the musical’s national tour.

Brown also performed a new composition, ‘Hope.”

The concert also featured the world premiere of a stunning choral piece, “Come, Lord, And Tarry Not,” from a new oratorio by composer Georgia Stitt, who played the piano and soprano Jamet Pittman and Randy Landau on bass.

Composer Georgia Stitt, at the piano, takes congratulations for the world premiere of her choral piece, “Come, Lord, And Tarry Not,” with Jamet Pittman, soprano © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Kent Tritle, Director of Cathedral Music, began this year’s concert with selections from Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 6 in D Major, and finished with the optimism of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Gloria/Et in terra pax from the monumental Mass in B Minor, and the beloved gospel song “This Little Light of Mine,” led by soloist Jamet Pittman, to herald the coming of the new year.

The “Light Shall Lift Us” New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine culminated with the light of thousands of candles held aloft by audience members. © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The “Light Shall Lift Us” celebration – which is offered as a free concert (though general admission and reserved seat tickets are available) culminated with the light of thousands of candles held aloft by audience members.

Founded by Leonard Bernstein in 1984, the annual New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace is a signature Cathedral event, for the Episcopal church which prides itself as being a “unifying center of intellectual light and leadership, embracing people from across faiths and communities. There are concerts and events throughout the year.

New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Cathedral itself is a marvel. Originally designed in 1888, with construction beginning in 1892, the cathedral has undergone radical stylistic changes and the interruption of the two World Wars. It started out in Byzantine Revival-Romanesque Revival style, but the plan was changed to  Gothic Revival in 1909. A major fire on December 18, 2001 caused the cathedral to be closed for repairs until 2008. It remains unfinished with construction and restoration a continuing process – which inside, only adds to the mystique of the place. It boasts being the largest Gothic cathedral, and may be the world’s largest Anglican cathedral and church; it is also the fourth largest Christian church in the world.

The cathedral houses one of the nation’s premier textile conservation laboratories to conserve the cathedral’s textiles, including the Barberini tapestries. The laboratory also conserves tapestries, needlepoint, upholstery, costumes, and other textiles for clients.

The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, 1047 Amsterdam Avenue (at 112th Street), New York, NY  10025, 212-316-7468, www.stjohndivine.org.

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© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

 

New York City’s Most Festive Ways to Celebrate New Year’s Eve

Experiencing New Year’s Eve in Times Square is an experience that should be done at least once in a lifetime. © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

New York City again hosts some of the world’s premier New Year’s Eve celebrations, some extending through the holiday weekend. There are festive ways to welcome in 2017 across all five boroughs, including the iconic ball drop in Times Square, as well as a divinely inspired concert at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and a Midnight Run in Central Park, complete with fireworks.

New Year’s Eve in Times Square

An estimated 1 million revelers in New York City will watch the 110-year-old tradition of the Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball Drop. A 12-foot-diameter geodesic sphere covered in 2,688 Waterford crystals, the ball weighs 11,875 pounds and is powered by 32,256 Philips Luxeon Rebel LED lights, capable of creating a palette of more than 16 million vibrant colors. At 11:59 pm, the ball begins its descent atop One Times Square as millions of people count down the final seconds of the year and celebrate the beginning of a new year.

New Year’s Eve in Times Square is a 110-year old tradition © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

New Year’s Eve events taking place in Times Square include:

Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest: A cherished annual tradition since 1972, the show will kick off New Year’s Eve celebrations live from Times Square with host Ryan Seacrest and comedian Jenny McCarthy. Pop star Fergie will also be co-hosting the Billboard Hollywood Party, featuring celebrity performances throughout the night. For more information on upcoming performances, visit dickclark.com.

New Year’s Eve Wishing Wall: When the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Day, thousands of confetti pieces will rain down upon revelers in Times Square, each containing a special wish from people across the globe. Visitors and locals looking to submit their wishes can submit in person at the Mobile Wishing Wall in Times Square or online via timessquarenyc.org starting on December 1. Visit timessquarenyc.org for specific locations and times.

Madame Tussauds New York: Located within walking distance from the ball drop, families can hang out with over 200 life-size wax figures of their favorite celebrities as Madame Tussauds celebrates the New Year. This year’s event includes passed appetizers, open bar for ages 21 and over and access to the attraction’s themed rooms, including the new Ghostbusters Experience that opened earlier this year. Visit madametussauds.com for more information.

Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Times Square: With over 500 amazing exhibits and 20 galleries, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Times Square will once again be holding a New Year’s Eve celebration to ring in 2017. Ripley’s New Year’s Eve party will feature a live DJ, dancing, open bar and face painting for the kids, complete with a champagne toast at midnight. For more information, visit ripleysnewyork.com.

Good Riddance Day: On December 28 from noon to 1pm, Times Square New Year’s Eve and Shred-it will bid farewell to bad memories from 2016. Mobile shredding trucks and mallets will be available for attendees to shred or destroy items like old love letters, pink slips and cellphones. Shred-it is also offering a contest on their website to win a trip to NYC for Good Riddance Day and to experience the ball drop. Those who can’t make it to Times Square can submit items to be shredded on shredit.com  or tweet with the hashtag #GoodRiddanceDay.

Visitors looking to dance and dine the night away will find several restaurants and venues with New Year’s Eve offerings around Times Square. Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar (two locations in Times Square), AMC Empire 25Aureole New York by Charlie PalmerBlue FinChevysDallas BBQDave & Buster’s Times SquareDos CaminosFig & Olive, Glass House Tavern, Planet Hollywood Times SquareSTK New York City MidtownSt. Andrews Restaurant & Bar and others will welcome 2017 in style. For tickets to these and other Times Square events, diners should call restaurants and venues directly or visit balldrop.com for select event tickets.

This is an event that you should do at least once in your life, but involves a bit of physical challenge, since you have to arrive by 3 pm and basically stand there without access to a bathroom or food (outside the perimeter) until after midnight. Dress in layers; bring water and snacks and of course camera and cell phone to share the experience.

But there are other ways to enjoy a unique New York New Year’s Eve:

New Year’s Eve concert at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, an inspiring way to welcome the new year © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Last year, I attended the New Year’s concert at Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine– a truly spectacular setting, as uplifting as the music  and candlelight. A signature New Year’s Eve event founded by Leonard Bernstein in 1984, the annual Concert for Peace brings together New Yorkers and visitors from around the world for an evening filled with uplifting music. This year, the Cathedral will introduce a new work by composer Paul Moravec and librettist Mark Campbell called “Light Shall Lift Us.” The program will feature soloist Jamet Pittman and includes other works from Joseph Haydn’s “Morning” Symphony and Johann Sebastian Bach’s Mass in B Minor. You can purchase tickets. Also, there are a limited number of general admission seats are free and open to the public (people line up hours in advance). Later in the evening, a special late-night service will be held to ring in the New Year. (1047 Amsterdam Avenue at 112th Street,New York, NY 10025, 212-316-7540, info@stjohndivine.orgstjohndivine.org.

Another of my favorite New Year’s Eve events is the New York Road Runners Midnight Run. The evening kicks off at 10 pm with music and dancing at the bandshell. Then, when the clock strikes midnight, and there is a spectacular fireworks display over the famous fountain, runners start a four-mile NYRR Midnight Run, dashing their way into 2017. The music, dancing and fireworks are free, but there is a fee to participate in the race (registration is open to the public and required; visit nyrr.org).

New York Road Runners Club’s New Year’s Eve party at the bandshell in Central Park, with music before a Midnight Run with a fireworks display © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Other festive events happening in Manhattan:

Apollo Theater: With its 10th annual Kwanzaa Celebration, the Apollo Theater invites visitors to enjoy a day in Harlem on New Year’s Eve, with dance performances by Abdel Salaam’s Forces of Nature Dance Theatre and music honoring the holiday of Kwanzaa. The event will also celebrate the Forces of Nature dance school’s 35th anniversary and is hosted by radio personality Imhotep Gary Byrd. Visit apollotheater.org to purchase tickets.

Children’s Museum of Manhattan: Families can enjoy a kid-friendly New Year’s Eve bash at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan. The museum will offer a New Year’s Eve Dance Party with DJ Chela, along with a New Year’s Eve ball drop just for the kids. Visit cmom.org for more info.

Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises: For an unforgettable evening sailing around New York Harbor, Circle Line cruise ships will once again offer their New Year’s Eve cruise sailings. The party cruise includes hors d’oeuvres, a full open bar, party favors, a DJ and a midnight champagne toast. The cruise boards at 9pm and sails from 10pm to 1am. (Must be 18 years old to board and 21 years old to drink alcohol.) For more information or to purchase tickets, visit circleline42.com.

Empire State Building: New York City’s iconic Empire State Building will join in the celebration of New Year’s Eve with their annual display of colorful confetti lights around the spire of the building. When the clock strikes midnight, the building will sparkle white to signify the new year, a must-see for visitors and locals alike.

Luminaries at Brookfield Place: Currently in its second installation at Brookfield Place in Lower Manhattan, Luminaries is a three-dimensional interactive light display in the Winter Garden atrium that cycles through a palette of festive colors when someone touches one of three “wishing stations.” During New Year’s Eve weekend, Luminaries will be displaying its holiday colors that dance to the tunes of Michael Bublé and Tony Bennett’s winter classic songs. Visit artsbrookfield.com for more information.

Madison Square Garden: Popular nineties band Phish will make their return to Madison Square Garden from December 28–31. The band’s loyal fans are invited to rock out into the New Year as they jam out with their unique style of live music. For more information, visit thegarden.com.

The Metropolitan Opera: French romanticism will return to The Metropolitan Opera with the opening of Roméo et Juliette on New Year’s Eve. Running through March 18, this classic love story will include four graceful duets with Diana Damrau as Juliette and Vittorio Grigolo as Roméo. For more information, visit MetOpera.org.

Merchant’s House Museum: Relive the cherished tradition of making house calls on New Year’s Day as the Merchant’s House Museum continues the 19th-century tradition with their Come Calling event. House tours, readings, punch and confections will all be part of the festivities, as well as a holiday raffle drawing. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit merchantshouse.org.

New York Philharmonic: On New Year’s Eve, music director Alan Gilbert will conduct the New York Philharmonic’s special New Year’s Eve celebration. This year’s show will feature mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato performing American classics by Rodgers & Hammerstein, as well as Copland and Lerner & Loewe. For more information, visit nyphil.org.

New York Water Taxi: Families looking to enjoy a kid-friendly evening can party the night away with New York Water Taxi’s New Year’s Eve Family Cruise. With the City’s magnificent skyline as the backdrop. the cruise will sail along New York Harbor and includes hors d’oeuvres, a dinner buffet with dessert, juice and soft drinks and a cash bar for those 21 and older. TVs onboard will be livestreaming the ball drop. Tickets can be purchased online at nywatertaxi.com.

World Yacht Cruises: World Yacht Cruises will feature a Montauk-esque buffet and celebration aboard its North River Lobster Company sailing. The cruise includes a standard open bar, live DJ and an extensive buffet from 10pm through 1am. For this and other New Year’s Eve sailings with World Yacht Cruises, visit worldyacht.com.

New Yorkers ring in the New Year © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Ringing in the New Year Brooklyn-Style

Coney Island USA: For those who want to experience the thrill of the ball drop without the crowds of Times Square, Coney Island will be hosting a New Year’s Eve celebration with an LED ball drop simulated on the Parachute Jump, along with a stunning 3D laser light show and a circus sideshow fire finale. Select boardwalk restaurants and attractions will be open, including The Thunderbolt and B&B Carousell. For more information, visit coneyislandusa.com

Prospect Park Fireworks: Visitors and locals can celebrate New Year’s Eve in Prospect Park under Brooklyn’s beautiful annual fireworks display at midnight, sponsored by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. This event is free and open to all ages and includes hot refreshments and entertainment. Grand Army Plaza, West Drive in Prospect Park and Prospect Park West between Grand Army Plaza and 95th Street are the best places to see the spectacular fireworks show. For more information, visit prospectpark.org.

Time’s Up 19th Annual New Year’s Eve Bike Ride: Celebrating its 19th year, environmental education group Time’s Up will once again host their New Year’ Eve bike ride and outdoor after party. Bikers and skaters can start the year off right by meeting up at 9:45 p.m. on the Brooklyn side of the Williamsburg Bridge, then ride through Washington Square Park and Madison Square Park before partying the night away at Belvedere Castle in Central Park. For more information, visit times-up.org.

Coney Island Polar Bear Club Annual New Year’s Day Swim: On New Year’s Day 2017, the Coney Island Polar Bear Club invites those brave enough to take a plunge into the Atlantic Ocean to bring in the New Year and to benefit Camp Sunshine, a charity for children with life-threatening illnesses. The yearly tradition is open to the public and starts at 1pm at the Stillwell Avenue boardwalk entrance, with free admission to the New York Aquarium for registered attendees. For more event details, visit polarbearclub.org.

New Year’s in The Bronx

Havana Café New Year’s Eve Party: Bringing the soul and taste of Havana to the Bronx, Havana Café will feature a special four-course dinner and one free cocktail starting at 8:30pm on New Year’s Eve, followed by an open bar starting at 11pm. The party continues until 4am with party favors and dancing. Visit bronxhavanacafe.com for more info.

New York Botanical Garden: Throughout New Year’s Eve weekend, visitors can check out the exciting winter wonderland at the New York Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show. Featuring more than 150 landmarks including the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge, visitors can watch as model trains zip through a miniature replica of New York City, which is sure to delight kids of all ages. Check out nybg.org for more info.

Queens Welcomes 2017

Elli Kokkinou at Melrose Ballroom: One of Greece’s most popular singers, Elli Kokkinou, will ring in 2017 at Astoria’s famous Melrose Ballroom. Visit melroseballroomnyc.com for tickets and more information.

Resorts World Casino: As New York City’s only casino, Resorts World Casino invites those 21 and older to celebrate New Year’ Eve at Club360 with live performances by Tavares & France Joli. Party favors, a drink ticket and a champagne toast at midnight are just some of the exciting offerings throughout the night in addition to its 3,000 slot machines. For more information, visit rwnewyork.com.

Staten Island Happenings

New Year’s Eve at Nicotra’s Ballroom: Beginning at 7:30pm, Nicotra’s Ballroom at the Hilton Garden Inn New York/Staten Island will host a New Year’s Eve Gala. The gala includes a cocktail reception, gourmet dinner, live DJ and a champagne toast as a live feed from Times Square shows the exciting ball drop. The Hilton Garden Inn Staten Island will also feature a special room rate, which includes a buffet breakfast and admission to the gala. For more info, visit nicotrasballroom.com.

Brioso Ristorante: Visitors and locals can spend their New Year’s Eve in a quaint and festive setting at Brioso Ristorante in Staten Island. Featuring a sumptuous menu of delicious and authentic Italian cuisine, Brioso has been a New York City staple since 1995. To book a reservation and to learn more, visit newyork.briosorestaurants.com.

For other great New Year’s Eve parties and events in New York City, see nycgo.com/articles/awesome-new-years-eve-parties-in-nyc

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© 2016 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Enchanting Candlelight Evening at Old Bethpage Village Restoration Transports Back Through Centuries

Father Christmas himself, in the parlor of the Layton House, during Old Bethpage Village Restoration’s Candlelight Evenings © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

For a brief moment, you are transported back in time. You leave the visitor center, walk down a path. The electric lights disappear. There is only firelight along the path into the village.

This is the Candlelight Evening at Old Bethpage Village Restoration,  where for only four special evenings (Dec. 15, 16, 17, and 18, 5-9:30 pm), you get to experience traditional music performances, crafts (like making Christmas ornaments as they did in 1841) and for an all-to-brief moment, feel you have been transported back in time to the 19th century.

Meeting Father Christmas himself, during Old Bethpage Village Restoration’s Candlelight Evenings © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I enter the Layton Store & House, owned by shopkeeper John M. Layton, dating from 1866 in East Norwich, where I come upon Father Christmas himself, reading “The Night Before Christmas.” The adults who visit are more tickled, it seems, than the young girl who looks at him with awe.

A spinning wheel and a loom, 17th century technology, in the 1660 part of the 19th century inventor Peter Cooper’s house, originally in Hempstead. Cooper was famous for inventing the steam locomotive, Tom Thumb © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I walk in the inventor Peter Cooper’s House, originally in Hempstead, where part of the house, an addition from 1815, is as the inventor would have had it, but the original section, which dates to about 1660, has interpreters from that time showing  how women would have used  a loom and a spinning wheel  (rendered obsolete with the Industrial Revolution).  Cooper, an industrialist, philanthropist, founder of Cooper Union, candidate for President and the inventor of the first American steam locomotive (the Tom Thumb). Her discussion is so intriguing, I am pressed to look up more about Peter Cooper’s inspiring biography.

In the Lawrence House (only newly opened as an exhibit), and I find Max Rowland and a collection of musical instruments: a 120-year-old German button accordion, and a similarly antique concertina upon which he plays gorgeous music as would have been heard in the 19th century.

Max Rowland performs on banjo, a 120-year old German button accordion and a concertina in the Lawrence House © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The most wonderful thing about the candlelight evenings at Old Bethpage Village Restoration on Long Island, is yes, the sense of stepping back into time, into a peacefulness such as finding yourself in a Christmas card. But what I love best are the serendipitous moments when you engage the reenactors in conversation.

So Max Rowland tells us about the musical instruments – how they were invented five years apart, in two different countries, but, interestingly, are based on the same principle. And how clever the concertina is – so compact and light, yet capable of such rich sound, that it was immediately embraced by sailors. Rowland can testify to it: this particular concertina has crossed the sea three times with Rowland, who lives on a boat.

Making 19th century Christmas tree ornaments in the Lawrence House © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

While Rowland plays music, in another part of this unusually large house, they are making Christmas ornaments such as would have been made in the mid-1800s, when Christmas first began to be celebrated in the United States. They would cut up Christmas cards and turn them into ornaments.

Music was so important to the people of the mid-19th century, the period which Old Bethpage reconstructs. When you think about it, people could only appreciate music live, in the moment.

This year at Old Bethpage, there is a lot more music than ever before.

“The Dancing Man” at District No. 6 School, c 1845, originally from Manhasset © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I come into the one-room District No. 6 School House, dating from 1845, which was originally in Manhasset, where a trio performs on original instruments, as it has year after year for the Candlelight Evenings. One of them has been presenting music here for the past 35 years, and notes that the most requested tune is called “The Grouchy Old Man and the Grumbling Old Woman,” which he good-humoredly performs, followed by another favorite, “The Dancing Man,” which his wife maneuvers a fascinating puppet-like toy to dance along.

Hot cider and cookies for sale at the Noon Inn © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

At the Schenck House, though, I come upon the most unexpected encounters. Here, the Huntington Militia re-create a Colonial Christmas in the 17th century. The Schenck House dates from 1765, owned by a Dutch farmer. Here, our presenters speak in the style of the time, and celebrate Christmas of 1775.

I encounter Ambrose Everyman (actually….) who tells me about his friend, the farmer Schenck, a Dutchman. North Hempstead had split from Hempstead over the issue of whether to support “The Cause” or stay loyal to Mother England. North Hempstead, which had a substantial Dutch population, wanted to break with England, while Hempstead, which was populated mainly by English colonists, wanted to stay. Mr. Everyman was upset with the upstarts in Massachusetts who caused so much trouble, who dared to pretend to be Indians and toss tea into the sea. He called them cowards for hiding behind their disguise. He said he knew war – had fought in the French and Indian War – but was too old to fight again. If there was a break with England, he says,, his business of building and repairing houses, would be destroyed.

Music of a Colonial Christmas in the Schenck House, dating from 1765 originally in Manhasset, performed by members of the Huntington Militia, at Old Bethpage Village Restoration

But he cannot express his feelings: the local Committee is strictly enforcing its ban on English tea and though it had no force of law, someone who broke faith would be shamed in the Gazetteer as “an Enemy of American Liberty,” would no longer get business, and ultimately be forced out of the community. So he keeps his views to himself. Taxes? What difference does it make to pay taxes to England or taxes to the Congress, he said. And doesn’t England deserve to get repayment for the expense of fighting for the colonies. How would those who would break from England confront the greatest army on earth? Would they get aid from foreign powers like France, when France would want to take over the colonies for itself?

Such an interesting debate. But it is closing in on 9:30 pm, closing time for this visit into Long Island’s past.

Old Bethpage Village Restoration, 1303 Round Swamp Road (Exit 48 of the Long Island Expressway), 516-572-8401; Adults/$10, children 5-12/$7 (under 5 are free); and $7 for seniors and volunteer firefighters.

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© 2016 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Planning to Attend 58th Presidential Inauguration? Destination DC Can Help Book Hotels, Plan Itineraries

The Willard InterContinental Hotel, where Lincoln stayed during his inauguration, is how the term “lobbyist” got coined © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The Willard InterContinental Hotel, where Lincoln stayed during his inauguration, is how the term “lobbyist” got coined © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

(Washington, DC) – Washington, DC’s hospitality community is united in its preparation for the inauguration of the 45th president on Friday, January 20, 2017. Hotels, restaurants and attractions in neighborhoods across the nation’s capital are creating thematic packages, menus, balls, exhibits and tours for visitors eager to participate in the 58th presidential inauguration. The District’s official destination marketing organization, Destination DC is showcasing this information for visitors coming to the nation’s capital.

Travelers attending inauguration can access Destination DC’s free resources and experts to:

Find comprehensive information on washington.org/inauguration. Content includes a calendar of events; suggestions for experiencing free (and almost free) presidential history; lists of award-winning restaurants and signature DC dishes. An inauguration FAQ will be updated as practical details including street closures are announced.

Book hotel packages designed for family, group and luxury travelers:

o Family-friendly options include Marriott Metro Center downtown; Washington Marriott Wardman Park in Woodley Park; Embassy Suites at the Chevy Chase Pavilion in upper Northwest; The Dupont Circle, Beacon Hotel and Courtyard Washington, DC in Dupont Circle; Liaison Capitol Hill and Phoenix Park Hotel on Capitol Hill; Hamilton Crowne Plaza downtown; Hyatt Place Washington DC, Melrose Georgetown Hotel, Georgetown Suites and Washington Marriott Georgetown; Harborside Hotel at National Harbor, Md.

o Packages created for corporate group travelers including the JW Marriott’s $2.5 million buy-out that bundles 325 guest rooms, four presidential suites, a rooftop party for 300 overlooking the inaugural parade and $400,000 in food and beverage credit.

o Luxury hotels including Four Seasons Washington, DC in Georgetown; The Fairmont Hotel, Ritz-Carlton Washington, DC, Park Hyatt and Watergate Hotel in Foggy Bottom; The Churchill Hotel near Embassy Row; the “Inauguration’s a Ball” package at 10 DC-area Kimpton properties; Sofitel Washington, DC Lafayette Square; Renaissance Washington, DC Downtown Hotel; the Marriott Marquis Washington, DC in Shaw; Willard InterContinental, W Washington, DC and Sofitel Washington, DC Lafayette Square near the White House.

Speak with visitor services representatives on Destination DC’s toll-free concierge-style information line (800-422-8644), staffed Monday-Friday, 8:30am-5pm EST.

Engage with experts and user-generated content on Destination DC’s Instagram (@visitwashingtondc) and Facebook (@washingtondc) channels.

Inauguration Day begins with a swearing-in ceremony at noon, continues with a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, and ends with official inaugural balls that will be confirmed by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. Throughout the city, special events take place including numerous ticketed unofficial balls that are open to the public. Destination DC will broadcast event details and practical considerations as they are announced.

Washington, DC welcomed a record 21.3 million visitors in 2015, up 5% over 2014. Visitors spent $7.1 billion in 2015. Spending on food and beverage was more than $2 billion (28.8%), second only to lodging (34%). In 2017, DC will host 21 major citywide events and conventions set to generate an estimated $357 million.

In 2017, DC will welcome new hospitality inventory including The Line in Adams Morgan and The Pod Hotel in the Penn Quarter. In October, the first phase of The Wharf, a $2 billion, 24-acre reimaging of the southwest waterfront will debut with new hotels including Canopy by Hilton and Hyatt House and restaurants from the likes of Fabio Trabocchi (Fiola); Nick Stefanelli (Masseria) and Jamie Leeds (Hank’s Oyster Bar). The Smithsonian Institution’s Freer Gallery reopens on the National Mall in October, and the Museum of the Bible is scheduled to open in November.

Destination DC, the official destination marketing organization for the nation’s capital, is a private, non-profit membership organization of 900 businesses committed to marketing the area as a premier global convention, tourism and special events destination with a special emphasis on the arts, cultural and historic communities. www.washington.org.
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New York City’s 43rd Annual Village Halloween Parade Inspires Reverie

New York City’s 43rd Annual Village Halloween Parade, the largest in the world, was themed “Reverie” © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
New York City’s 43rd Annual Village Halloween Parade, the largest in the world, was themed “Reverie” © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

The 43rd Annual Village Halloween Parade, the largest Halloween event in the world, got underway with extraordinary precision, as all the skeletons, ghouls and monsters – some 50,000 in all – got into order for the march up New York’s 6th Avenue to the rhythm of a host of bands.

New York City’s 43rd Annual Village Halloween Parade © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
New York City’s 43rd Annual Village Halloween Parade is living art © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The theme this year invited participants to “Sink into Reverie —that liminal space in which one creates.”

Skeletons on parade in New York City © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Skeletons on parade in New York City © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“One thinks of Halloween as a chance to fantasize, but more than anything Halloween lets us realize, allowing us to play ourselves, leaving the remainder of the year for sleepwalking…. In these moments of reverie, our eyes are fresh, a child’s eyes. Our thoughts unfettered by habit, ideas and inspirations swirl in. So this year we celebrate Reverie, inviting one and all to recreate their waking dreams.”

Fantastical figures delight parade watchers on 6th Avenue. Tens of thousands turned out to watch the 43rd Annual Village Halloween Parade © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Fantastical figures delight parade watchers on 6th Avenue. Tens of thousands turned out to watch the 43rd Annual Village Halloween Parade © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Indeed, this is one day a year when New Yorkers, en masse, release their inner exhibitionist, their inner Action Hero. It’s Body English, when your entire being is a placard to transmit your message. For some, it is a way of releasing inner rage, anxiety, and confront demons. For others, it is a way to convey spiritual blessings, cheer.

Skeletons join the 43rd annual Village Halloween Parade © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Skeletons join the 43rd annual Village Halloween Parade © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

This year had its Willy Wonkas, the Egyptian Pharoahs (one carried a “10 Commandments for the 21st Century that included “gender equality” and “no more wars”), Action Heroes and Cartoon characters, spirits from myth and folklore, and a good smattering of political characters and commentary, with candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton (more mocking him than her), Anonymous, and against the NRA.

More than 50,000 join in the Village Halloween Parade © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
More than 50,000 join in the Village Halloween Parade © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Tens of thousands of people lined the route, which extended a mile from Spring Street up to 16th Street, delighting all as the bigger-than-life skeleton puppets poked into the crowd and stilt walkers and costumed characters engaged.

Gay Lesbian Marching Band join the Village Halloween Parade © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Gay Lesbian Marching Band join the Village Halloween Parade © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Creativity is on full view, a mischievous spirit in the air – this is New York City’s Carnival and Mummers wrapped into one.

Fantastical figures delight Village Halloween Parade watchers © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Fantastical figures delight Village Halloween Parade watchers © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

It is amazingly artful, marvelous to behold – indeed, producer Jeanne Fleming, who took over the planning for the parade after its 8th year when the crowd reached 100,000, saw the Village Halloween Parade as an art installation.

More than 50,000 join in the Village Halloween Parade © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
More than 50,000 join in the Village Halloween Parade © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

And the scenics! with the lights of the Freedom Tower downtown, the church at Greenwich with its giant spider crawling down the side and the tower lighted, and the Empire State, lit in crackling light show for the occasion uptown, and the buildings lining 6th Avenue like canyon walls – creating a fantastical atmosphere in which the walking creatures and monsters feel most at home.

Parade producer Jeanne Fleming has made the Village Halloween Parade into an art installation that inspires a sense of community © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Parade producer Jeanne Fleming has made the Village Halloween Parade into an art installation that inspires a sense of community © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“New York’s Village Halloween Parade is committed to the cultural and imaginative life of New York City and to the advancement of large-scale participatory events in the belief that such events, when artistically inspired, can play a major role in the resurrection and rejuvenation of the City’s spirit, economy and the life of its people,” is the mission statement. “Fleeting as it may seem, the Annual Village Halloween Parade provides a subconsciously experienced time structure that lends a sense of durability, continuity and community to New York City life.”

The Village Halloween Parade is a rhythmic musical extravaganza © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The Village Halloween Parade is a rhythmic musical extravaganza © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Indeed, it is a collective giggle, a communal hug against the forces beyond control, and while you are in the spirit of it, you forget everything beyond.

Ghostly presence in the Village Halloween Parade © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Ghostly presence in the Village Halloween Parade © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Walking around Manhattan, with the oddest sights (half the time, you don’t know if people are wearing costumes), just adds to the special thrill of Halloween in New York City.

More than 50,000 join in the Village Halloween Parade © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
More than 50,000 join in the Village Halloween Parade © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

From humble beginnings in 1974 when Greenwich Village mask maker and puppeteer Ralph Lee started a walk from house to house for his children and friends, the Village Halloween Parade, now headed by Artist and Producer Jeanne Fleming, has become an iconic event of New York City, with some 60,000 participants and tens of thousands of onlookers.

New York City’s Annual Village Halloween Parade is the largest nighttime Halloween event in the world © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
New York City’s Annual Village Halloween Parade is the largest nighttime Halloween event in the world © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Village Halloween Parade, the only major night parade in the country, is the largest public Halloween celebration in the world. It has been named as “The Greatest Event on Earth” for October 31 by Festivals International, and has been listed as one of the “100 Things to Do Before You Die.”

Three guys who know something about the afterlife. The Village Halloween Parade has been listed as one of the "100 Things to Do Before You Die." © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Three guys who know something about the afterlife. The Village Halloween Parade has been listed as one of the “100 Things to Do Before You Die.” © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The ghouls and ghosts in the parade certainly would agree.

A wink and a nod from some of the fantastical characters in the Village Halloween Parade © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
A wink and a nod from some of the fantastical characters in the Village Halloween Parade © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

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© 2016 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

‘Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ Halloween Events – Ghouls & All – Return to Historic Hudson Valley

Halloween in Historic Hudson Valley: Horseman's Hollow at Philipsburg © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Halloween in Historic Hudson Valley: Horseman’s Hollow at Philipsburg © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Washington Irving’s macabre tale, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” is the inspiration for Horseman’s Hollow, a spectacularly produced interactive Halloween haunted attraction at the colonial-era Philipsburg Manor in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.

It is one of a series of Historic Hudson Valley’s Halloween season spectacular events taking place over an unprecedented 32 nights. They are the largest Halloween events in the tri-state area and are expected to draw more than 150,000 visitors to Sleepy Hollow Country. They take place in several Historic Hudson Valley venues, each one an important attraction.

Washington Irving’s macabre tale The Legend of Sleepy Hollow inspires Horseman’s Hollow, an interactive haunted attraction taking place over 14 nights at Philipsburg Manor in Sleepy Hollow, an estate that dates back to colonial times. But for Halloween, it is stocked with professional actors and state-of-the-art special effects and lighting. Take note: Horseman’s Hollow has a high fear factor, which is why it is so popular with teenagers. (Recommended for ages 10 and up.)

Irving’s ‘Legend,’ recommended for ages 10 and up, brings the master storyteller Jonathan Kruk into the historic, candlelit interior of Sleepy Hollow’s circa-1685 Old Dutch Church, where for 14 afternoons and evenings he offers a dramatic re-telling of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow accompanied by live organ music.

The Legend Behind the ‘Legend’ is a daytime experience at Washington Irving’s Sunnyside homestead in Tarrytown, N.Y., that highlights the author of the famous story.

Halloween in Historic Hudson Valley: Blaze at Van Cortlandt Manor © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Halloween in Historic Hudson Valley: Blaze at Van Cortlandt Manor © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

And continuing for a record 32 selected evenings through Nov. 13, The Great Jack O’ Lantern Blaze® is the Hudson Valley’s biggest all-ages Halloween extravaganza. A small team of artists comes together to carve more than 7,000 jacks, many fused together in elaborate constructions such as life-size dinosaurs and eight-foot-tall working jack-o’lanterns-in-the-box, all lit up throughout the wooded walkways, orchards, and gardens of historic Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y.

Headless Horseman Rides Again

Philipsburg Manor, is but a few miles up the road from Washington Irving’s homestead at Sunnyside and, legend has it, is the setting for his classic story. The village, which was once known as North Tarrytown, actually changed its name to Sleepy Hollow in 1996.

But here at the 350-year old Philipsburg Manor, one of the Historic Hudson Valley historic sites, you can easily imagine the “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” as Irving saw it in his mind.

Now in its 7th year, Horseman’s Hollow, which welcomed more than 30,000 visitors last year, is a haunted experience in the heart of Sleepy Hollow that takes the tale of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow to its darkest extremes. Historic Philipsburg Manor transforms into a terrifying landscape ruled by the undead, the evil, and the insane, all serving the Headless Horseman himself.

For 14 nights, historic Philipsburg Manor transforms into a terrifying landscape ruled by the undead, the evil, and the insane, all serving the Headless Horseman himself.

Colonial ghouls inhabit Horseman’s Hollow, at Philipsburg Manor in Sleepy Hollow, NY © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Colonial ghouls inhabit Horseman’s Hollow, at Philipsburg Manor in Sleepy Hollow, NY © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The 300-year old manor house, barn and gristmill of the Philipses, a family of Anglo-Dutch merchants who owned the 50,000 acre- estate, become the sets and the backdrop for the really, really ghoulish hauntings by colonial spirits.

Haunted house professional Lance Hallowell is back this year to lead a crew of award-winning makeup and costume designers and a 45-member-strong cast of experienced actors to create an immersive, interactive, pleasantly terrifying experience, with state-of-the-spooky-art special effects.

Custom built set pieces and period-correct costumes help orient the experience in Philipsburg Manor’s traditional time period of the mid-1700s.

What is best about Horseman’s Hollow is the sheer number (and talent) of the live spirits – they are very considerate, too – they seem to know just how much to terrify you (though really squeamish and young children should not come). I have found that if the ghouls sense you are easily frightened (like me), they tend to take down a notch their scare factor (I basically announce that I am easily frightened as I enter one of the venues).

But the professional actors and state-of-the-art special effects, contributes to a high fear factor (it’s recommended for ages 10 and up and is not for the squeamish and you need to take heed of the warning: This event is NOT suitable for adults who are claustrophobic, have heart or respiratory conditions, are prone to seizures, or have other chronic health conditions.)

As we start our experience, walking up a dirt path that rings the pond, a faceless colonial escorts us for a time, then goes into the trees to surprise a group of teenagers who are following behind. With each step through the woods, you leave the modern world behind and suspend disbelief.

Timed tickets mean that it isn’t overcrowded (safety in numbers?) – but as we walk through (guided by helpful spirits with lanterns who lead us to the next haunted house), we hear the screams of a pack of teenage girls in the distant dark. It adds to the atmosphere.

The Headless Horseman comes out of the shadows at Horseman’s Hollow, at Philipsburg Manor in Sleepy Hollow, NY © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The Headless Horseman comes out of the shadows at Horseman’s Hollow, at Philipsburg Manor in Sleepy Hollow, NY © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Look carefully in the deepest, darkest shadow, and there is the Headless Horseman himself, astride his steed, standing quietly as if taking in the scene or simply delighting in the terror of recognition as the clueless passerby realizes who is lurking in the dark.

Horseman’s Hollow dates are Oct. 7-9, 14-16, 21-23, 27-31. Online tickets are $20 ($25 on Saturdays).  Fast Track, for a $15 per ticket upgrade, lets visitors skip the line in their timeslot. Historic Hudson Valley members receive a$5 per ticket discount.

Philipsburg Manor is at 381 North Broadway (Route 9) in Sleepy Hollow. (There is a parking field.)

Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze

The Headless Horseman, in lighted jack o’lanterns, at Blaze © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The Headless Horseman, in lighted jack o’lanterns, at Blaze © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com


The Great Jack O’ Lantern Blaze, which drew more than 130,000 visitors last year, features more than 7,000 illuminated, individually hand-carved jack o’ lanterns. Elaborate single-pumpkin carvings and huge multi-jack o’lantern constructions are professionally lit throughout the landscape of Van Cortlandt Manor in various themed areas.

Favorite installations such as Jurassic Park and the giant spider web are joined this year by new creations including a plus-sized Pumpkin Planetarium, a Pumpkin Zee Bridge, and a brand-new herd of pint-sized dinosaurs all made of jack o’lanterns.

Creative Director Michael Natiello leads a small team of Historic Hudson Valley staff and local artists who carve. In addition, more than 2,000 volunteers help scoop and light the pumpkins. You can watch Blaze artists carving on site during the event.

Vernon Ford demonstrates pumpkin carving at Blaze at Van Cortlandt Manor © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Vernon Ford demonstrates pumpkin carving at Blaze at Van Cortlandt Manor © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Café Blazé, by Geordane’s of Irvington, offers culinary treats including soup, veggie chili, muffins, pumpkin cookies, and cider. The Great Jack O’ Lantern Blaze Shop has a full bounty of Blaze-specific merchandise including hats, notepads, games, T-shirts, magnets, caps, mugs, and jewelry.

New music this year created by professional musician, radio personality, and Halloween fanatic Richard Christy will augment the visitor experience. The new tracks as well as music from Christy’s Blaze: The Soundtrack Volume I & II play throughout the event. (Soundtrack Volume II is available as a CD at the event and both volumes are available as digital downloads and streams from iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play.)

Blaze dates are Sept. 30, Oct. 1-2, 7-10, 13-16, 19-31, Nov. 3-6, 10-13. Online tickets are $20 for adults ($25 on Saturdays), $16 for children 3-17 ($20 on Saturdays), and free for children under 3 and Historic Hudson Valley members.

Van Cortlandt Manor is at 525South Riverside Avenue, just off Route 9 in Croton-on-Hudson (A parking field is on site).

Irving’s ‘Legend’

Master storyteller Jonathan Kruk offers a dramatic re-telling of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” accompanied by live organ music in the candlelit interior of Sleepy Hollow’s circa-1685 Old Dutch Church © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Master storyteller Jonathan Kruk offers a dramatic re-telling of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” accompanied by live organ music in the candlelit interior of Sleepy Hollow’s circa-1685 Old Dutch Church © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Master storyteller Jonathan Krukoffers a dramatic re-telling of Washington Irving’s classic tale, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, featuring the Headless Horseman, Ichabod Crane, Brom Bones, and Katrina Van Tassel. Flavored with live spooky organ music by Jim Keyes, Kruk’s storytelling takes place in the historic, candlelit setting of the Old Dutch Church in Sleepy Hollow. The circa-1685 stone church is across the street from Philipsburg Manor, where visitors will park. Performances last about 45 minutes.

Irving’s ‘Legend’ dates are Oct. 7-9, 14-16, 21-23, 27-31. Seating is very limited and there are three performances each evening. Online tickets are $25 for adults, $20 for children under 18. Historic Hudson Valley members receive a $5 per ticket discount.

Legend Behind the ‘Legend’

Sunnyside, the home of Washington Irving, celebrates its connection to Irving’s classic tale, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, at this family friendly daytime event. The Legend Behind the ‘Legend includes tours of Irving’s home – a colorful blend of architectural styles – which showcase numerous objects from HHV’s collection related to Irving’s famous story. Visitors can also enjoy a shadow puppet performance of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and experience one of Irving’s spooky tales on a walk through the woods. Sunnyside is on West Sunnyside Lane, off Route 9 in Tarrytown.

Legend Behind the ‘Legend’ dates are Oct. 1-2, 8-9, 15-16, 22-23, 29-30. Online tickets are $16 for adults, $12 for seniors, $8 for children 3-17, and free for those under 3 and Historic Hudson Valley members.

All events are held rain or shine. Proceeds support Historic Hudson Valley, the Tarrytown-based private, non-profit educational organization that owns and operates the historic sitesthat host these events.
Because of the popularity of these events, it is essential to purchase tickets in advance.

Buy tickets online at www.hudsonvalley.org or by calling 914-366-6900 ($2 per ticket surcharge for phone orders and for tickets purchased onsite, if available).

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© 2016 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

US Open Tennis Opens With Festival Atmosphere and Many Improvements

Simona Halep of Romania, seeded 5 in the US Open tennis tournament, practices in the brand new Grandstand © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Simona Halep of Romania, seeded 5 in the US Open tennis tournament, practices in the brand new Grandstand © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, goingplacesfarandnear.com

The world stage for sports has moved from Rio to New York as the Big Apple lays down the red carpet for the US Open Tennis Championship at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center in Flushing Meadow Park, which more than 50 years ago hosted another international spectacular, the World’s Fair.

The US Tennis Open has become like much of New York, a glitzy affair for the elite, but for the week before this annual Grand Event, the gates are flung open for everyone to enjoy.

This is something that locals know about, and eagerly await each year.

Head to head at the net: Marcelo Arevalo of Spain vs Giraldo Santiago of Colombia (seeded 18) in first round of the Qualifying Matches © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Head to head at the net: Marcelo Arevalo of Spain vs Giraldo Santiago of Colombia (seeded 18) in first round of the Qualifying Matches © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

This is the Qualifying Matches, when more than 100 players from around the world fight for a coveted spot in the Open. If they make it through three rounds of the Qualifying tournament, they will get a spot; 16 out of 128 will advance. The matches are fabulous, and what is more, you can see the players really up close, you can wander around from match to match.

In fact, the quality of the competition rivals for your time and attention from the opportunity to watch Tennis Royalty warming up in the Louis Armstrong stadium and the new Grandstand, as well as the practice courts.

Here, too, you can see the greats from a perch you would never have during the actual tournament.

Getting into the swing: Children’s Day events at the US Open © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Getting into the swing: Children’s Day events at the US Open © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The four days of matches are free and the festival atmosphere is enhanced with special events including Children’s Day activities, musical presentations, and the excitement of seeing the world’s best players practicing. You never know who you will encounter.

The quality of play at the qualifying matches is superb, and Everyday Joes have front-row seats to the intense action. It’s particular fun to wander from match to match.

Tyler Townsend beat all odds – including seeded players – to win her way out of the Qualifying tournament to a coveted spot in the US Open © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Tyler Townsend beat all odds – including seeded players – to win her way out of the Qualifying tournament to a coveted spot in the US Open © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

On the first day of play, I got to see two American women advance who wound up playing each other in the fourth round, and one player, Tyler Townsend, triumphed over Jennifer Brady (seeded 18 in the Qualifying tournament) to win her spot in the US Open tournament.

You also get to see the top players in the world practicing at such a close vantage point you would never get otherwise – you see the intense expressions on their faces, their muscles flex, their contortions as they leap, stretch, slide to reach a ball.

Tennis legend John McEnroe leaps onto the narrow railing in the seats to reach a ball, showing he still has it © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Tennis legend John McEnroe leaps onto the narrow railing in the seats to reach a ball, showing he still has it © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

And you get to see tennis legends – like John McEnroe who took his turns practicing strokes and serves, and in showing Mac is Back, leapt onto the narrow railing in the seats to reach a ball – evoking flourishes of gold-medal gymnast Simone Biles on the beam.

I also got a first-hand look at the brand new Grandstand court – fantastic – where Simona Halep was practicing against Kiki Bertens.

Simona Halep and  Kiki Bertens  practice at the new Grandstand at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Simona Halep and Kiki Bertens practice at the new Grandstand at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The new Grandstand is at the center of a completely revamped South Plaza. The sunken court, surrounded by 8,125 seats, retains the intimate viewing experience of the old Grandstand but likely avoids the horrible shadows that plagued the original grandstand – has a more open-air feel to it. It also is its own tennis destination, with expanded retail and food concessions, including a new Food Village.

There are many other improvements, as well:

Most notably, the retractable roof on Arthur Ashe Stadium – probably the most prestigious tennis venue in the US – has been completed.

Kiki Bertens, of the Netherlands, at practice, is seeded 20 in the US Open © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Kiki Bertens, of the Netherlands, at practice, is seeded 20 in the US Open © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“More than 6,500 tons of steel now surround Arthur Ashe Stadium in a technological first – constructing a stand-alone support system for a retractable roof over an existing stadium,” E.J. Crawford reports. “The 2 million-pound retractable panels close in under seven minutes and will allow scheduling consistency for fans, players and US Open television partners. The retractable roof is the largest of any tennis stadium in the world, with a 62,500-square-foot opening.”

Also, the Grandstand in the southwest of the complex is connected to Court 17 in the southeast via a picturesque 500-foot long, 40-foot wide boulevard.

There are also 2,099 new seating in the southern area, to accommodate the viewers as well as those walking the grounds. And, like the seating design at the West Stadium Courts (Courts 4, 5 and 6), fans will be able to walk over a connected seating structure between Courts 8, 9 and 10, and Courts 13, 14, 15 and 16.

Other notable events and fan favorites at the 2016 US Open include:

Community Day on Thursday, Sept. 8

After its debut at last year’s US Open, the USTA is once again offering complimentary grounds admission on the tournament’s second Thursday, Sept. 8 (noon to 6 pm). Fans will be able to watch doubles play, including the men’s and women’s doubles semifinals, as well as semifinal action in the Champions Invitational, a showcase of former Grand Slam champions and finalists, and the world’s top boys and girls competing in the US Open Junior Championships. In addition, this will be the third year of the American Collegiate Invitational.

Final Farewell to Louis Armstrong Stadium

Fans flock to Milos Raonic after his practice in the Louis Armstrong Stadium; fans will get to say a final farewell to the stadium on Sept. 8 © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Fans flock to Milos Raonic after his practice in the Louis Armstrong Stadium; fans will get to say a final farewell to the stadium on Sept. 8 © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Also, on Thursday, Sept. 8, the USTA will give a final salute to Louis Armstrong Stadium by allowing fans access to the stadium for one last time. An exhibition and trick shot competition for fans are just two of the scheduled activities for that day. Fans also will be invited onto the court to play in Louis Armstrong Stadium before it is shuttered for the final time. Louis Armstrong Stadium will be replaced by a new state-of-the-art stadium for the 2018 US Open.

Bradley Theodore Art Installation

To commemorate the last year of Louis Armstrong Stadium and the old Grandstand structure, the US Open is partnering with acclaimed New York artist Bradley Theodore. Theodore will develop a series of four murals within the Great Hall in Louis Armstrong paying homage to iconic individuals associated with both stadiums, including Serena and Venus Williams, John McEnroe, Billie Jean King and Armstrong himself. After the US Open, one of the murals will be donated to the USTA Foundation to further support the mission of growing the game of tennis.

Chase Charge and Watch Program

Fans this year can pick up a mobile charging device from the Chase booth located next to the Food Village to fully charge their smartphones and stay connected to the tournament. When connected to the US Open mobile app, the charging unit also will deliver live video to the fan’s phone. The devices, which work through the on-site radio frequencies, will only work on the grounds of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

New Food Offerings

The US Open has also become quite a dining experience. New dining options include the new Grandstand Food Village (located at the Grandstand south of Courts 4, 5 and 6); Oyster Bar serving a variety of oysters, lobster rolls and shrimp cocktail for seafood lovers (located adjacent to Court 7); and fan favorite Chef Tony Mantuano’s Wine Bar Food returns with a new location and new menu (located adjacent to Court 11). Additionally, Grey Goose will debut a new bar in the Grandstand Food Village along with a new cocktail, Grey Goose Le Grand Fizz. The main Food Village will also feature a new Jacob’s Creek bar showcasing the winemaker’s Two Lands wines. And the Moet & Chandon Terrace returns to the patio area near the US Open Club as well.

Music Legend Phil Collins to Perform Opening Night, Aug. 29

Music Legend Phil Collins will perform during the Opening Night Ceremonies for the 2016 US Open on the evening of Monday, Aug. 29, in Arthur Ashe Stadium. The performance, Collins’ first major public appearance in six years, will be televised live by ESPN2 in the U.S. and by a host of international broadcasters. Collins will be joined for a special duet by Leslie Odom Jr., a Queens, N.Y., native who recently won a Tony Award for his performance as Aaron Burr in the hit play “Hamilton.” Odom Jr. is also slated to sing the national anthem that evening. The ceremony will feature expanded technology, incorporating more than 100 LED moving lights hung from trusses along the east and west catwalks, spanning more than 300 feet, designed to spotlight the new roof.

Nightly Light Show with Lasers

Returning for a second year, the USTA is presenting nightly light show during the evening sessions of the tournament. This year, the light show will be choreographed with the rest of the lighting system to showcase the new roof and enhance player introductions.

US Open “Selfie” Fancam

New this year, fans in Arthur Ashe stadium will be able to use their phones to remotely control cameras to zoom into their location,  and take and share the selfies on their social media accounts. Fans will go to usopenfancam.com, enter their seat location and then will have control of one of eight in-stadium cameras.

US Open App Enhancements

New for 2016, the US Open app debuts Guest Information Presented by American Express. Guest Info delivers comprehensive listed information that assists fans in navigating the US Open in real time. Guest Info is an intelligent engagement platform that leverages location services to put Guest Services directly in the hands of US Open attendees. The feature will provide all the closest, most relevant points of interest tailored to the fan’s specific location on the grounds.

Open Access

Open Access returns for 2016, providing the single fan registration platform that enables attendees to be entered to win tickets, hospitality upgrades and other prizes from US Open sponsors and vendors. Fans can register once either in the US Open app or on USOpen.org. They then receive a unique seven-digit QR code to scan at every activation. At the end of the day, fans will receive personalized photos and videos of their US Open experience.

Coco Vandeweghe of the USA is seeded 28 in the US Open © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Coco Vandeweghe of the USA is seeded 28 in the US Open © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

US Open Social Media Enhancements

The US Open is expanding its social media impact with a number of new enhancements this year, Campbell reports. “Among them, the first US Open-branded emoji keyboard in partnership with YourMoji, a series of custom Snapchat filters for US Open fans playing on the signature elements of the US Open, and a special photo and video experience for players at their check-in, where they can showcase their personality and pose with props including custom designed racquet art by former player Andres Ballas. Also, an on-site social booth will allow fans to take photos and create their own GIFs to be shared on social platforms. In addition, the US Open has expanded its social influencer program, leveraging partners such as creative duo Street Etiquette, Fashion Bomb Daily and the entertainment marketing collective Everyday People helmed by Roble Ali and Saada Ahmed. The program will culminate with an on-site activation, The Suite Spot, which will serve as a social media content hub to highlight key aspects of the US Open experience through the lens of participating influencers.”

ESPN to Produce Record Number of Hours for 2016 US Open

ESPN will again serve as the exclusive live domestic media partner in 2016. During this year’s US Open, ESPN and ESPN2 will combine to air nearly 130 hours of live match play with a record 1,300 hours of first-to-last ball coverage, available on WatchESPN. ESPN continues to expand its production and coverage of the US Open, featuring play from up to 12 courts each day and incorporating cutting-edge camera technologies.

Comprehensive 24/7 TV Schedule

Katerina Siniakova at the US Open © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Katerina Siniakova at the US Open © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

ESPN kicks off its US Open coverage on Sunday, Aug. 28, with a live “SportsCenter on the Road” from the US Open at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN2, followed by Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day presented by Hess at 2 p.m. on ABC. Daily coverage commences on Monday, Aug. 29 at 11 a.m. on WatchESPN, at 1 p.m. on ESPN and 6 p.m. on ESPN2 (all times Eastern). ESPN2 will deliver wall-to-wall coverage of Labor Day weekend from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. each day. Finals Weekend will culminate with the women’s singles final on Saturday, Sept. 10, and the men’s singles final on Sunday, Sept. 11. Both finals will air at 4 p.m. on ESPN. In addition, Tennis Channel will air daily preview and highlights shows as well as overnight encore programming – offering fans a 24/7 US Open experience

Live Streaming

Again this year, USOpen.org will offer live streaming in partnership with ESPN, with more than 1,300 hours of coverage across all broadcast courts available on WatchESPN and through the US Open app – providing a “digital grounds pass” for fans. In addition, WatchESPN also offers the US Open Chase Review Channel, multi-court/camera offering and Spanish language coverage. New this year, the press conference feed from interview room 1 will also be available on WatchESPN.

 

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© 2016 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com   and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

11th Annual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island Finishes Off With Really Hot Jazz

Charleston lesson at 11th Annual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Charleston lesson at 11th Annual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

 

Talk about Hot Jazz! The heat and humidity could not dampen the celebratory spirit for the final weekend of the 11th Annual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island, where the weather was hot but the jazz was hotter. People still turned out in their vintage 1920s outfits, re-creating the Gatsby-era.

Yodoyiohdo. Michael Arenella and His Dreamland Orchestra at 11th Annual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Yodoyiohdo. Michael Arenella and His Dreamland Orchestra at 11th Annual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Michael Arenella and His Dreamland Orchestra sets the mood with music Arenella has transcribed from original recordings of the era. Arenella re-creates the role of a Big Band leader, taking on the inflection and look, and telling anecdotes about the music and the musicians as if it were now, when this music was all the rage and radio was a new (and dangerous) cultural phenomenon. Within moments, you are transported back to the romance and joie de vive of that time, leaving behind for these precious hours the hubbub of modern times (except for the constancy of cameras, smart phones and selfies).

Gregory Moore and The Dreamland Follies at 11th Annual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Gregory Moore and The Dreamland Follies at 11th Annual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The entertainment throughout the day is topnotch: Gregory Moore and The Dreamland Follies, evoking the Ziegfield Follies, puts on stunning and sophisticated dance routines; Roddy Caravella & The Canarsie Wobblers  consistently wow with fanciful costumes and choreography;

Minsky Sisters © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Minsky Sisters © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The Minsky Sisters, a 1920s-inspired sisters tap act in the tradition of classic vaudevillian family acts; Queen Esther, an award-winning vocalist with a four-octave range who is also a songwriter, actor, and recording artist performing regularly in NYC, who sets her own standard of Jazz Great while paying tribute to jazz royalty of yore with her jazz quintet The Hot Five; Peter Mintun, “world’s greatest piano man” and Molly Ryan, known for her silvery voice and lush, elegant vocal style; plus musical interludes on vintage 78 records from the 1920s played on a 1905 antique phonograph.

Roddy Caravella & The Canarsie Wobblers at 11th Annual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Roddy Caravella & The Canarsie Wobblers at 11th Annual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

There are special attractions, as well, starting with lessons in Charleston or the Peabody by Roddy Caravella and his wife; dance competition (in Charleston or Peabody); a “High Court of Pie” contest;

Enjoying the private Sheik of Araby Tent VIP Tent in true Gatsby-era style at 11th Annual Jazz Age Lawn Party © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Enjoying the private Sheik of Araby Tent VIP Tent in true Gatsby-era style at 11th Annual Jazz Age Lawn Party © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Bathing Beauties and Beaus Promenade; Kidland carnival games and prizes for junior gents and Flapperettes; 1920s Motorcar Exhibition (get up close and personal with flivvers, Tin Lizzies and “Buttercup,” Gatsby’s very own 1925 Rolls-Royce “Twenty”); Vintage Portraits  (immortalize yourself while perched upon a Paper Moon); and boutonnieres and mini floral arrangements bestowed upon guests from BloomThat, a flower start-up.

Queen Esther performing with her jazz quintet The Hot Five at 11th Annual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Queen Esther performing with her jazz quintet The Hot Five at 11th Annual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Scores of vintage vendors add to the atmosphere – if you didn’t have your own vintage outfit, you can rent or buy, and if you didn’t have your own picnic blanket, you could purchase from the General Store. Merchants include: Dora Marra, Toucan Hats, Prohibition Clothing, Noble Vintage Clothier , Wildfell Hall Vintage, David Owens Vintage, Howard’s Entertainment, Penumbra Foundation, Zelda Magazine and Art Deco Society of NY.

BloomThat bestowes boutonnieres and mini floral arrangements at the Jazz Age Lawn Party © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
BloomThat bestowes boutonnieres and mini floral arrangements at the Jazz Age Lawn Party © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The bi-annual daytime affair also features an array of Golden-Age inspired cocktails created by mixtress Julie Reiner (Clover Club, Leyenda, Flatiron Lounge) featuring the festival’s signature spirit, St-Germain, including: The St-Germain Cocktail: an invigorating aperitif of St-Germain, sparkling wine, and sparking mineral water with a lemon twist; Strike Up The Band: a refreshing Collins-style recipe blending summer strawberries with gin, St-Germain and fresh citrus; and the Flappers Delight: St-Germain elderflower meets Juniper and mint in this tall summer fizz, and exclusively in “ The Gatsby’s Garden” VIP section: Americano de Robert: St-Germain, Campari, Dry Vermouth, lime, soda & orange peel, served up.

Ferry is Magic Carpet to Bygone Era 

The enchantment begins as you board the ferry from South Street or from Brooklyn for the short ride to Governors Island. You think you have stepped back to the 1920s – crowds of giddy people are dressed in flapper dresses and linen suits, caps and suspenders cram the ferry. And dancing shoes. And you realize this isn’t just any ride in the park.

The Sokol Sisters –Evita, Stephanie, Katie and Ashley, from New York City get into the spirit of the Jazz Age Lawn Party © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
The Sokol Sisters –Evita, Stephanie, Katie and Ashley, from New York City get into the spirit of the Jazz Age Lawn Party © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

We are back in the Jazz Age, and the setting is perfect, a vast lawn set off by an arbor of trees, surrounded by buildings and forts that date back to the Civil War and World War II when Governors Island was used as a base and military prison (I even happened on Civil War re-enactors), now repurposed for arts and cultural programs.

People come and set out sprawling picnics – some with elaborate fixings like candelabras and crystal wine glasses.

The atmosphere is infectious. Fellows seem more civilized. Gals seem more sassy. And the good feeling just percolates to the beat from Michael Arenella’s Dreamland Orchestra, as this fantastical community defying time forms.

Michael Arenella © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Michael Arenella © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The unquestioned star of the day long festival is Michael Arenella and His Dreamland Orchestra, one of the world’s great Jazz Age dance bands, specializing in the Hot-Jazz of the 1920s. “Conductor, composer, musician and singer Michael Arenella presents a personally transcribed songbook for your listening and dancing pleasure.” (Michael Arenalla also can be heard Wednesday nights at the Clover Club, Smith Street in Brooklyn and at the Red Room, the last Thursday of the month, 85 E 4th St, NYC, and at the Clover Club, see www.dreamlandorchestra.com).

Michael Arenella and His Dreamland Orchestra at 11th Annual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Michael Arenella and His Dreamland Orchestra at 11th Annual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

It isn’t hard to believe you have returned to the Jazz Age because of the authenticity and attention to detail. Arenella “transcribes by hand their entire repertoire from period recordings. Their delivery, as well as their instruments, attire, and equipment — are faithfully accurate. Arenella’s strong yet vulnerable baritone lacks pretense or sarcasm. He treasures each lyric, and has faith in the songs he sings. Even the most optimistic Tin Pan Alley tune has a disarming quality in his hands.”

Even the 1928 Graflex, used to take period photos, is an original.

Gregory Moore pays tribute to New York Times Styles photographer Bill Cunningham during Jazz Age Lawn Party © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Gregory Moore pays tribute to New York Times Styles photographer Bill Cunningham during Jazz Age Lawn Party © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Now in its 11th year, the Jazz Age Lawn Party has built a history of its own. It started in 2005 as a small gathering of about 50 friends and fans of Michael Arenella and his Dreamland Orchestra and their version of prohibition-era music and fun. Not too many years after, it was drawing thousands of fans who revel in the music and zeitgeist of the 1920s and 1930s and has become what is arguably the world’s largest outdoor musical celebration of the Jazz Age, but is undoubtedly one of the highlights in a crammed calendar of summer happenings in New York City.

For more information, visit: JazzAgeLawnParty.com.

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© 2016 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com   and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures