(“Summer Celebration at Comeau Property to launch Pocket Guide to Woodstock” by Ann Hutton appeared in the June 28, 2012 issue of Ulster Publishing’s alm@nac.)
How does one decide what to put in and what to leave out when writing The Pocket Guide to Woodstock? The intrepid poet/trekkers Will Nixon and Michael Perkins, who wrote Walking Woodstock after having hiked the streets and alleys and trails of this most famous village, now offer up an amplified guidebook, replete with hand-drawn maps and the evocative sketches of Carol Zaloom.
Perkins had published a small guidebook ten years ago — one that included a village history walking tour. When the pair decided to update it, Nixon says that he tried to imagine himself as someone in his mid-30s, living in the City and coming to Woodstock to get away. “What would catch my eye?” he muses. “I played tourist, and I got overwhelmed. There is so much history around us. I discovered how little I really knew.”
Their collaboration involved taking the old text, sharing new ideas and expanding the reach. “By the time we revised it, it was quite new. We added and rephrased a lot.”
Delving deeper into historical trivia, they were sometimes surprised by what they learned. For instance, most of the Hudson Valley settlements began around 1660, but Woodstock was founded in the late 1700s. Why did it take people 100 years to migrate up into the area, they wondered? “Settlers who did come up were not from Europe. They were longstanding Colonial residents.” So, they were by then English-speaking and quite often born on New World soil. It explains why the Lutheran Church of Woodstock holds historical documents written in English.
Having hiked up Overlook Mountain countless times, Nixon was fascinated to learn that the area around Echo Lake on the mountain’s back side—now a lush forest preserve —had once been a source of wood fuel for the two major glass kilns that thrived there. Ever wonder where the Glasco Turnpike got its name? Think: Glass Company.
Such historical trivia abounds in this new volume, enlightening even longtime residents about their home place. In addition to suggested walks around town, The Pocket Guide to Woodstock offers descriptions of the Byrdcliffe Arts Colony, the Maverick, the two local Buddhist monasteries and lots of other places of interest, along with suggestions for hikes and other outdoor activities outside the village. Many visitors and locals alike might be more curious about all the famous (and infamous) folks who have taken up residence in and around Woodstock over the years. Painters, musicians, actors, writers, record-business entrepreneurs and great thinkers have tucked themselves away here from time to time. Some stayed on, and some continue to make creative waves.
To celebrate the book’s release, Nixon and Perkins will team up with the Golden Notebook to host a Woodstock Summer Celebration at the Comeau Property on Sunday, July 8 from 2 to 5 p.m. Visitors are invited to bring a picnic and throw out a blanket for an afternoon of music and good times. Uncle Rock, Bruce Ackerman and the inimitable Paul McMahon will be on hand to entertain, and a group of teenage Shakespeareans will perform a scene from As You Like It. Also during the afternoon, free walks will be conducted, and talks by Catskills geologist Robert Titus, forest historian Michael Kudish and Woodstock town historian Richard Heppner will take place.
Guided walking tours will be offered each Saturday from July 14 through August 25, beginning at 10 a.m. Starting off from the Golden Notebook, the duo Will take participants on an hour-long stroll. “The village has this wonderful well-kept look. Our idea for the walking tours is to take people out, tell a little history of the village, go into some of the buildings and give the background.” Tickets cost $10 or the purchase of The Pocket Guide to Woodstock. For more information, call the Golden Notebook at (845) 679-8000.
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The Mother Grouse Blog is produced by Will Nixon, author of My Late Mother as a Ruffed Grouse and Love in the City of Grudges available on-line.