Look how far the Hudson Valley Tavern Trail has come. Sure, on Friday night at the Erie Hotel, the crowd of 100 (from last year's attendance of 20) was a challenge, but also a reminder that informal history events are not only desired, but an untapped economic resource.
Let's recap: The 2016 Historic Tavern Trail of the Hudson Valley, conceived to be an end of the week happy-hour gathering of history fans in historically significant venues, kicked off on April 29th with over 80 participants at the North Plank Road Tavern in Newburgh.
North Plank Road Tavern owners Tom and Denise Costa dressed the part in Prohibition Era attire and graciously shared the research that they had compiled about former owners and visitors to the historic inn. Matthew Colon of the Historical Society of Newburgh Bay & the Highlands spoke on the origins of the "plank road." A raffle conducted by the Historical Society raised over $150 to support their mission and aid in the maintenance of the Crawford House Museum. The specialty apple cider drink, the Apple Jack Downing created specifically for the series, celebrated local agriculture. We had over 80 people at this Newburgh event, with dinner reservations pouring in to the point that the night's two seatings were fully booked. The Costa's have hosted many historical evenings at their venue in the past and were well prepared for this terrific response.
This past Friday, May 27th the Tavern Trail visited the Erie Hotel & Restaurant in Port Jervis. As I stated earlier, it drew more than 100 participants who came to enjoy the program and mingle with visitors from at least six surrounding counties, a far cry from the 20 the previous year. We were pleased but surprised by the size of the turnout, which created a unique challenge for us in working with such a large crowd, on a Friday night. The Erie Hotel staff could not have been more accommodating on such short notice, and for that they have our thanks. They jumped in and moved us to another larger space, which mixed the Tavern Trail crowd with the Friday night bar regulars. It also required us to scramble for a microphone so our speaker could be heard and radio station WRWD FM 107.3 rose to the occasion and offered their PA system.
In retrospect, these glitches in the event are fixable and due from it's popularity. More importantly, we know that there is a demand for these kinds of informal gatherings, an alternative to a Sunday afternoon formal lecture. And maybe a need to host more formal history talks in traditional venues to relay the details of our research to those who prefer quieter settings. In the current incarnation, these events support the local business owners who invest to preserve and maintain historical venues, raise monies for the local historical societies, and in the end promote regional heritage tourism. Plus, it creates a "meet and greet" for history fans to gather and spark new friendships. Our goal is to introduce likeminded members of the community so that they feel comfortable asking questions on their own, learning more about the venues and developing an appreciation for the preservation efforts of the venue's owners.
Thanks have to go out to Lynn Burns and Nancy Conod for representing the historical community on the western side of the county. To Robert McCue of the Ontario & Western Railroad Historical Society, who normally speaks in intimate gatherings, who presented the brief insight into local history over a noisy Friday night audience. Thank you especially to Matt Kierstead of Milestone Heritage Consulting historical preservation and interpretation firm of Marlboro, NY for formally organizing and planning the 2016 Tavern Trail under contract with Orange County.
Also, to the Brink and McKeeby families for hosting the event and being so great to work with, to the Minisink Valley Historical Society who graciously opened the Fort Decker Museum for the Early Bird Tour. To Orange County Legislator Tom Faggione's T-Bone Design of Port Jervis for the hats embroidered with the Tavern Trail logo. The raffle raised $240 to support the Historical Society!
Our next event will be at the Iron Forge Inn in Warwick. Please come out and support the heritage of our great county!!