September 13, 2008, Oneonta Star: Belleayre Festival on, but moved

Belleayre Festival on, but moved

By Patricia Breakey
Delhi News Bureau

The state Department of Environmental Conservation announced Friday that the 29th annual Belleayre Fall Festival will be held at the Delaware and Ulster Railroad in Arkville on Columbus Day weekend.

The event is traditionally at the DEC's Belleayre Mountain ski area, but a DEC spokeswoman said the event, set for Oct. 11 and 12, was moved because of a partnership between DEC and the railroad.

Maureen Wren, DEC spokeswoman, said that Belleayre Mountain representatives will be at the festival to provide information about tickets for the upcoming ski season.

She said Belleayre will operate seven days a week this season, but the DEC will continue to evaluate the ski center's operation.

This year's festival will offer train rides, a ski and winter apparel sale, live music, food, dozens of craft vendors, a kid's crafts tent and face painting, she said.

The rally was called by the Coalition to Save Belleayre when rumors began to circulate that the fall festival was being canceled and the ski season might be shortened.

Joe Kelly, coalition spokesman, said that when word leaked that the harvest festival was not being held at Belleayre,

"It was making people very nervous, but it was impossible to get definitive statements out of the DEC.

"This event brings as many as 16,000 people to our community in one single weekend," Kelly continued. "Cutting this out will make our hotels and restaurants bleed profusely, to say nothing of the stores, gas stations and others who benefit."

Kelly said he understands the need for cuts and that everyone has to share in the pain of the current economy.

But, he added, not only do local businesses that depend on Belleayre suffer, but so do the counties that depend on the sales tax and bed tax revenues generated by these visitors.

Rich Schaedle, chairman of the Catskill Heritage Alliance, said its opposition to the rumored budget cuts was voiced in letters sent to state and federal representatives and to legislators in Ulster and Delaware counties.

On Friday, Sen. John Bonacic issued a prepared statement saying, "In eight years, the Senate has worked to direct nearly $20 million to Belleayre for more trails, a new lift, and now a major lodge expansion. In fact, this year, there is another $750,000 allocated.

"The DEC cannot now turn its back on the Catskills," Bonacic continued.

Schaedle described the ski center as "an important recreational destination for the state and an engine of economic vitality for this region."

Schaedle said word of the rumored festival cancellation came from vendors, who said they received letters announcing that the event would not be held.

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Patricia Breakey can be reached at 746-2894 or at stardelhi@stny.rr.com.

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